Saturday, September 19, 2020

When in Naples, Italy: Pompeii City

Italy has so much to offer in terms of culture, cuisine, and history. Every city has its charm. And we were so glad that our lack of itinerary led us to visit Naples. This southern city is about an hour away from the famous Pompeii, one of Italy's most popular tourist destinations.

Hello, Pompeii.

Pompeii is not like the posh Milan, busy Rome, or the picturesque Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. It is an ancient city engulfed by beautiful yet deadly Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

There are three ways to get to Pompeii from Naples--train, bus, or car. Taking the train is the quickest at about half an hour, while the bus and car take a bit less than one hour. The fare for the bus and train is pretty much the same at 2.8 Euros for one way. 

A one-day ticket to Pompeii costs 15 Euros while the price for a three-day ticket to Pompeii, Oplontis, and Boscoreale sites is 18 Euros. You can also choose to get entry to Oplontis and Boscoreale at 7 Euros if you've been to Pompeii before. We opted to go with just Pompeii as we'll be covering a massive ground. Plus, most reviews said to take about eight hours if you want to see all areas.

We also rented an audio guide for us to appreciate better the things we'll see inside. To rent one, you need to hand over one identification card along with a cash or credit card payment of 8 Euros for one audio guide or 6.5 Euros for two or more. Make sure to return your audio guide before Pompeii closes for you to avoid going back the following day to get your ID. (Note: We highly discourage you from getting one as the audio of the phone is terrible! We forgot to bring earphones and had to rely on the outdated phone's loudspeaker. Also, the order seems to be a bit jumbled up, making it confusing. Best to download Rick Steve's audio guide [which is free]!)

Just like most parts of Italy, the cobblestone paths are not very friendly to the feet. Best to wear rubber shoes whether or not you plan to cover a lot of ground. 

It is also best to bring snacks and drinks with you. Though there are said to be restaurants inside Pompeii, one was closed when we visited and the other is more of a convenience store than a place to get a warm filling meal.

The unearthed ruins of Pompeii was impressive. 

We got a glimpse of how the Romans lived during this period. 

And from the colorful graffiti, intricate designs, and beautiful floorings, one could tell that some of the people who lived here were affluent.

There are two amphitheaters in Pompeii. The one closest to the entrance was said to hold performances, while the bigger one was for grander events such as gladiatorial combats, animal hunts, and battle reenactments. 

There were also several display of Pink Floyd in two of the tunnels of the bigger amphitheater as he held a concert there before.

There are a handful of areas where you'd notice big rocks in the middle of the cobblestone road. These are often used during the rainy season when the streets get flooded.

Several relics and remnants of the past are on display in several unearthed homes. Most of these are imitations as the originals have been transferred to the National Archeological Museum in Naples.

R was particularly interested to see the plaster casts of men, women, children, and animals. These plaster casts are based on the preserved remnants of the Romans, and it gives a clearer picture of their last moments before their demise.  

It used to be on display near the Forum (with the many pillars) before. But it was destroyed during the war. The new plaster casts were moved further down, near the burial grounds. 

Speaking of burial grounds, the cemetery of Pompeii was a lot grander than I expected. The tombstones of some were well-decorated with head busts of what I'd assume to be the patriarchs of the families. 

The burial ground also is the best viewpoint to admire Mount Vesuvius' beauty.

After about 7 hours of walking, we barely covered a third of Pompeii. And we had to rush to the exit as it was getting too close to 5 p.m., the site's closing time. Since we had to return the audio guide before closing, we went through the rest of the area as quickly as we could. We even missed some sites which were out of the way.

And to our surprise, the exit was far from the entrance. R had to sprint about a kilometer away to return the audio guide and get his passport back. And he barely made it!

Famished, we were hoping to have a bite nearby. But we decided to trash the idea when we realized that we couldn't find any tabacchi store to get bus tickets back to Naples. Google Translate, too, failed us as the locals we've asked pointed us to different directions. 

Finally, we bumped into fellow tourists who have been waiting for the Naples bus for quite some time now. We've agreed that if the bus doesn't arrive in half an hour, we'll get an Uber and split the fare. 

Thankfully, a bus came and allowed us to be on board despite not being able to buy tickets beforehand. The bus driver said that we could buy tickets from him instead. But he never issued any. We're not sure if we got scammed, but we paid the same amount anyway. Well, the important part was we got back safe and sound.

I'm not so sure if the train to Pompeii was already an option back in 2018. I suggest you take that one instead as the bus stop back to Naples is like finding a needle in a haystack!

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