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davidx Vesuvius - A travel report by David
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Vesuvius,  Italy - flag Italy -  Campania
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davidx's travel reports

Vesuvius and Pompeii

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It was on our long holiday in 1976 that we visited. I believe that Vesuvius last erupted in 1944 – so no doubt it looks much the same as when we saw it. Excavations at Pompeii continue, but the sights of 1976 must still be sights today.


Vesuvius travelogue picture
I have given the outline of our long holiday in my Plitvice Seen report. This Italian area was our last before heading for Bari and the overnight crossing to Dubrovnik. I’ve spent some time looking for a suitable map for locating the places precisely and have had a real problem finding the two and Sorrento on the same map. Finally I found a really useful little map on a site I was going to mention anyway! http://www.cotf.edu/-ete/modu les/volcanoes/vmtves-uvius.html [no gap]. We approached via Napoli. It may be better now but Pam said something like, ‘ Let’s get out of here. We don’t want the car damaged.’ ‘Don’t be silly’, I said. ‘Some people drive here every day.’ ‘Exactly, look!’ I looked. There was a row of eight parked cars. Seven were dented. We got out – unharmed. You may well wonder why we didn’t go to Herculaneum as well. I’m sorry we missed it, as I’ve heard such good reports, but we did go up the volcano, to Pompeii and to Capri and for a drive round the coast to Salerno – and we had booked our crossing from Bari. All of this seemed much more of an adventure in pre-Internet days. However, you can’t do everything. I think everybody probably knows that Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii with their whole populations. Subsequent eruptions may be worth a mention however. Apparently it used to erupt roughly every hundred years until the 17th century, when the ruins of Pompeii were discovered during the clear-up operations. Since then it has become infrequent – but there are sites which stress the potential number of people who could be harmed in a future eruption and it will happen. Such is the nature of active volcanoes. The Osservatorio Vesuviano was the first scientific establishment to study vulcanology, opened in 1845.

Favourite spots:
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Vesuvius is possibly the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe. Its recent history has been far less active than that of its Sicilian counterparts, Etna and Stromboli. Even so we felt quite adventurous driving as high as we could get and then walking up to the crater. Hot feeling cloud and smoke from a mountain were outside our experience before this. Needless to say, the view from the top is stupendous – it must be. You will gather that in this one respect we were not lucky. We only had non-photogenic glimpses of land through the heat haze in all directions. However the volcano itself more than made up for this. I can’t say I fancy the idea of being employed to stay up there all day every day to watch the smoke and make fire without matches by blowing but we all found it fascinating to watch someone else doing it!

What's really great:
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It’s a good thing Pompeii is so special or we should probably have sunk into a heat-induced torpor and done nothing. That sun was really something! However it was a great experience. Of course what you see is what it was. People living there may have been frightened but they had no means of knowing their last day had arrived and there was nothing deliberate about the various historical messages conveyed by the city. I have heard people say they expected more. I was happy to rejoice in what could still be seen after its having been covered by the murderous lava for a good five hundred years. Pictures give a far more accurate idea of words and one of many good sites is http://harpy.uccs.ed-u/rom an/html/pompeiislide-s.html [no gap] One thing other than the archaeological marvels that I shall always remember is the sight of so many lizards of different sizes and colours sunning themselves everywhere.

Sights:
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That area of Italy is popular enough not to need any descriptions from me and I am simply supplying some suggestions of websites for those who have yet to go.
For Pompeii I like
http://www.thecolefam ily.com/italy/pompeii/ and the reference to ‘a Christian perspective’ needn’t deter those of other faiths or none.

For Herculaneum, try
www.roman-empire.net/ar ticles/article-011.html

For Capri, Sorrento and Napoli:
http://www.capriweb.co m/web/Itineraries/loc ation.php?la n=Eng&loc=Capri

Accommodations:
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We camped at a site between Vesuvius and the coast. It was OK for the intended number but one large party of school children arrived one day to sleep outside. It had certainly been the kind of weather to make that seem fairly sane but, of course, that had to be the night of wild lightning, thunder and rain – so they went into the only inside place they could get. It was pretty grim in the morning walking over live bodies to reach the urinal!
Another memory there is the night when we decided to have a pizza cooked at the site. They solemnly took our order, asked when we would like to eat and, in reply to a question, suggested that 20.00 would be a good time. Accordingly we arrived at about 19.55 and asked to wait along with a mass of people already there. It was obvious that plenty of Pizzas were being assembled but not that any were being cooked – and people were still arriving in droves. It must have been nearly 21.00 before all the prepared pizzas were put into the enormous ovens!

Restaurants:
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As a general observation we found that the smaller local specialising spaggheti bars and pizzeria were more interesting, as tasty and massively cheaper than the 'good' reataurants. Surely they are even more to be commended now that Italian food is so widely available.

Other recommendations:
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When we drove to Bari, we stopped at Potenza for some shopping. We left the children in the car with firm instructions to keep the windows as we left them. We returned in time to prevent the wheels being removed.
I should love to hear what it’s like now. Then it seemed desperately poor and rather xenophobic. The latter attribute we did little to weaken as we found later that we had inadvertently taken somebody else’s cheese with our shopping!


Published on Monday February 21th, 2005


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Wed, Feb 23 2005 - 12:45 PM rating by bear495

Nice job, again. After the recent special documentary about Pompeii on the Discovery Channel I spoke of the City and of Vesuvius in my Earth Science class. This is a welcome addition.

Russ

Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 04:03 PM rating by britman

Yet another great report. I visited about 10 years ago - couldn't remember too much - your report refreshed my memory admirably.

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