Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Italy Trip Report: Naples and Pompeii

We left Rome on the morning of the fourth day. But, before we left, we managed to exchange the bulk of our cash into euros. We realized that the small money changer shop that we first exchanged our money had given us the best rate by a fair bit ($100 gave us 70 euros). It was better than any bank, and much better than any of those larger shops.

Anyway, we get to Naples, and I go and find the tourist information office so we can figure out the best way to get to our hotel. The girl invited me into her office where there was a window that she pointed at. Looking out, you could see the Grand Hotel Sant'Angelo right outside the rail station, which meant that it probably wasn't going to be too nice. The area around the rail station in Naples is really crummy. Lots of shady street vendors and the area was just dirty.

We walk over to the hotel, and surprisingly the lobby is decent, and the staff was really friendly. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. Unfortunately, the room was not so nice. The AC didn't work so well, and the bathroom was not in the best shape. Oh well. It was only for a night, so we didn't raise a stink.

Shortly after checking in, we head off to the touristy St. Lucia district. We walked around quite a bit, and I have to say that the view was nice. We stopped at some random restaurant, Trattoria 'Ntretella, for a late lunch. The guy who served us looked like the actor/director, Roberto Benigni. Too bad I didn't muster the courage to take his picture. But, believe me, he really looked like him. QB ordered some grilled fish, and I had a decent tasting clam pasta dish.

After having some food, we explored the area a bit. Our walking map wasn't as detailed as we would have liked., so we mostly wandered around aimlessly. Sometimes we would hit upon some major shopping streets, and at other times we would end up in some random alley and have to backtrack a bit.

We did go and check out the Egg Castle. There's not much there to see in the castle itself, but the views were magnificent.

After the sun had set, we decided to try some of the famous Neapolitan pizza. They say that pizza was invented in Naples, and we figured if we were there, we had better try it. I can't say I was all that impressed by the pizza, and I know QB didn't like hers too much. I mean it wasn't bad tasting or anything, but I'll take a good Chicago or New York pizza over what we had. Maybe we chose the restaurant poorly. This is quite possible, as we had the rudest, pushiest waiter ever. He was so incredibly pushy. In any case, it really soured our mood. Not long after our meal, we called it a night.

The next day, we headed off to see the ruins of ancient Pompeii. That's the city that was totally wiped out by an unexpected eruption of Mount Vesuvius almost a thousand years ago. It's really amazing how well preserved the city was in the volcanic mud and ash. Crazy to think that some guy back in the 1500's was digging up a water channel for the city, and happened to uncover this great archaeological site.

We walked all around the ruins of the ancient city for many hours. We didn't even get to see everything by the time we left. And, from what we were told, only 2/3 of the city has actually been uncovered. The rest is still entombed.

The ancient city dwellings were really something to check out. Everything was so well preserved that many of the wall paintings were still in reasonably good condition. You could even see the stoves in the kitchens and the erotic art that covered the walls of the local brothel. I really enjoyed this part of the trip. It's hard to explain how I felt, but there's something about picturing how life was a couple thousand years ago. It's not really all that hard to imagine given all of the well-preserved visual aids.

After checking out the ruins, we walked around a bit in the city. This was mostly because I got the two of us lost. But, I did manage to get a picture of a cat that caught a lizard.

And, that's pretty much it for Naples and Pompeii. The next installment whenever I have more free time will cover Siena.

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