Thursday, November 5, 2009


Camping Spartacus, €15
By Chuck

We left Roma today and 3.5 hours later we moved into our new camping spot, Camping Spartacus in Pompeii, directly across from the site of the unfortunate ancient city. We had only one mishap with Susanna, today – when she tried to send us down a street marked no entry.

We ate a quick lunch in Homer and bounded off to the site. We began by going to the exit and they redirected us to the proper starting point, where we were able to purchase a 3 day €27 Campania ArteCard; this will allow us to travel to most of the sights we want to see in the area, entering the first two free and receiving a discount on the others.

We were amazed to find that November 5 is T-Shirt weather in Pompeii!

Ancient statue and ancient guy in beautiful ruined Pompeii

Once again, I am bowled over by the immensity of the remains of this once vibrant city. For those of you, like me, with no head for historical dates: Pompeii was wiped out by an explosion of nearby Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. at about noon. Everything was frozen in time by the 30 feet of volcanic ash that immediately covered the city.

Mt. Vesuvius and Temple of Jupiter

With the help of Rick Steves, we did a self-guided tour. It was fascinating, but frustrating. We had trouble orienting ourselves to the walking instructions and most of the more interesting or famous locations were closed for renovations. I guess that is one of the downsides of off-peak touring. We did manage to get a very good feel for the place and eventually found most of the sites we wanted to see.

One unexpected bonus was the food concession in the middle of the site. I am usually annoyed by the exorbitant prices charged by museums in the U.S. and expected the same treatment here; imagine my surprise when the helpful service person pointed out that, since we were already ordering a cappuccino and a fresh squeezed orange juice, we could add a brioche for the combo price of 4 Euros. What a deal! As we were leaving, I pointed out to Claire that they also served gelato; she immediately veered back toward the restaurant and we shared a caffé-pistachio combo for another €3. I think the best in food is yet to come!

Cappuccino, fresh squeezed orange juice and croissant for only €4

We found many examples of the middle and upper class existence around the ancient, ruined town. You got a good feel for things because the basic structure of most houses remains intact – only the roofs have collapsed, probably from the heat and weight of the hot ashes and then the ravages of time on whatever remained. But, this is probably the best preserved town from antiquity, because of the devastating volcanic eruption.

Columns with brick, mortar and fake marble stucco veneer. The Romans were great engineers and knew how to save a buck, too.

Column detail

Ancient plumbing pipe. Even Versailles didn't have decent indoor plumbing.

Many of the locations are marked on the map provided upon entry: Bakeries, Fast Food Joints, Gym and Whorehouse...

Fast food joint - the ancient version

Giant ice cream cone advertising an ancient gelato stand

Pedestrian only street: The beaver teeth stop chariots from driving down the street.

Street with chariot grooves. Too bad the Romans didn't invent rubber tires; they wouldn't have to repave the streets every 1000 years. Notice the huge pedestrian stepping stones to allow pedestrians to cross the street when the sewage is washed down the block.

Ancient workout room with lockers

This is a complete change in tone for me. I was unable to speak upon first seeing these poor souls. For the curious, they captured these figures by using the hollow shells of volcanic ash as molds for plaster.


Pat in Santa Cruz said...

Well, despite the "Fall" Chuck you seem like the energizer bunny! I was amazed by Pompeii and the "lost souls." The Cappucine Crypt also had me on wikipedia reading all about it. Rome was just amazingly beautiful. So glad you found the "Roman Holiday" site...I need to add that to my queue. :-) Of course Claire, there's always Rome Adveture.
It's starting to sink in how much you are able to see and experience by traveling this way. I checked out my map of Italy and looks like Naples is "coming soon."

Adam and Kim Quennell said...

Hey I really like this entry, it was great to meet you guys in Rome, I will continue to follow your travels. Just in case you didn't write it down, our blog is
I have another question, how do you get the visitor counter on your blogspot, very intriguing, I like it. Safe travels, I will look forward to seeing Turkey and Egypt et al.
Take care, Adam, Kim and Kacey

Carol said...


I know one of the things I came away with from my European travels was a burning desire to read more European History. Maybe I'm reading through the lines, but it sounds like you may be feeling the same. There is just so much I realized I did not know.

Thanks for your thoughts on Pompeii. I have seen many photos of the people who succumbed to the poisonous gases that were emitted from the depths of the earth. It's always horrific to think about these events because you put yourself in their shoes. I had never seen/known about all the skulls and skeletons that you guys took photos of. That was just as moving for me. Thanks for sharing. Carol

Chuck and Claire said...

Naples coming soon? Been there, done that... We are moving on.

Adam & Kim
We hope to follow your exploits as well. It's always good to be able to learn from seasoned travelers!

Yes, you read me correctly; I would like to read more European History. Let me know if you find anything you recommend.