Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Amalfi Coast

When a friend heard I was going to Italy, she said I just had to visit the Amalfi Coast. So while in Sorrento we took the bus south along the Amalfi Coast towards Positano.
It was a little foggy early in the morning. It was hard to get a good picture of the Mediterranean Sea.
The coast road is narrow and seems to be built right out of the rock cliffs. Many people on the bus thought it was scary, but I lived in Colorado too long to be concerned about these roads.

The traffic is always heavy. In the busier months they make the road a one way only for the tour buses.

Looking back from where we came. Pictures just can't do this coastline justice. It was beautiful.

We passed several fruit stands along the way.

We also passed some olive orchards. The netting between the trees is kept rolled up like a hammock unless they are harvesting. Then they are spread out between the trees and the trees are shaken and the olives fall into the netting.

We are coming to Positano, where we planned to get off the bus and wander around town for a while.

With all the narrow streets cars like this were the norm, not the unusual.

The bus doesn't go all the way down to the beach, so we had to get off and walk down. It sure looks like a long way down.

The walkway down was narrow and steep in places, winding through homes and apartments.

Finally, we made it down to the beach level. There's barely enough room for people and here is a car trying to get through as well.

I finally got my feet wet in the Mediterranean.

See the old fort in the background? The forts were built to warn the people of the Saracen pirates many, many years ago. They can be found every few miles up and down the coast. They had to be within a signal fire site from one another.

The entire area from Sorrento down to Amalfi is known for its lemons.

And its lemoncello.

You could find the recipe for lemoncello all over. Most of the stores which sold it, also gave free samples and would gladly ship it home for you, wherever that might be.

Looking down the beach at Positano.

Instead of continuing down the coast on the boat, we chose to take the ferry down to Amalfi.

Along the way we could see more of the lookout forts from the sea.

This was a different view than from the bus.

Amalfi as seen from the boat entering the harbor.

More beaches. Positano and Amalfi are both within hours of Rome and Naples, so in addition to being tourist destinations for visitors around the world, locals enjoy the area too.

Looking down on the harbor at Amalfi. We had read about a village just over the hill, but somewhere I think we took a wrong turn. We climbed and climbed and eventually ended back up in the middle of Amalfi, just higher up.

But we sure saw some nice sites along the way. I was really intrigued about the decoration on this church steeple. I think it really reflected the Greek influence of the area.

This old lookout fort in Amalfi is now a popular restaurant.

Up on the hill we saw some vine and these grapes growing on some rooftops.

We even saw that people today still want protection by having the Cave Canum next to their doorways.

Another view of the church.

As we wandered down into town again we saw these peppers with a sign advertising it as natural viagra.

More lemons for sale.

Now I'm looking up at the same church which just moments before I was looking down on.

Well, our day was ending and we boarded the bus headed back to Sorrento. We had been told to get to the bus stop early and get on the right side heading away from Sorrento and on the left for the return.

These are private islands and we were told that at one time it was owned by Rudolph Nuryev.

A close up of the old castle on the island.

This is why we were told to get to the bus stop early. It was standing room only before the bus got back to Sorrento.

A last look at the Amalfi Coast.


Pompeii

I can't begin to describe Pompeii with only 35 photos, but I chose the best of the over 400 photos taken. Hopefully you will get a feel for the community of over 20,000 which was stopped in a heartbeat with the eruption of Mt. Vesusvius in 79 A.D.
The entrance to the city. It was once an important port city, at the crossroads of the mediterranean and the road to Rome. After the eruption and the tsunami, the ocean ended up over a mile away.

Those square blocks with the holes were once where the ships docked at the port of Pompeii.

Inside you first came to the common areas, temples, markets and central square. This is the basilica. A basilica was originally any Roman building which was used for a courtroom or assembly hall. It wasn't until about the 4th century when the term became associated with a large Christian church. In fact, many Christian basilica's were built on top of old Roman basilica's and pagan temples.

Just off the central square was the Temple of Apollo.

The temple of Zeus on the central square.

This is a mold of one of the 2000 people who died in the eruption. As they were excavating they found these hollow spots. When the dead body deteriorated it left a hollow spot, and by filling these spots in with plaster they could recreate the person or animal (they found several dogs) who had died.

These murals were found all over the old walls of buildings throughout the city.

One of the pools inside the baths. The baths were very advanced with three different temps and three different pools. Separate baths for men and women, dressing rooms and even workout rooms.

Everything they did seemed to be done for the eye of the beholder. Here the ceilings of the bath were ornate and carved as well as painted murals.

Just outside the baths were these setups. And no, they aren't toilets. They are the original fast food businesses. We were told by the guides people did not cook at home, but ate out most of the time. This was a middle to upper class town full of merchants and bankers. After the bath and workout of course you wanted something to eat. Each hole would hold a large pot of a different food. Every few blocks you would find a series of these businesses. Evidently fast food was popular even in 79 A.D.

This picture, taken through some bars, shows a dog figure design on the tile of the entry way of a home. Cave Canum was considered the protector of the home and many people would have this figure designed into the entry tile.

Dogs were very popular back in 79 A.D. and you will find them roaming all over the ruins. Most never even noticed all the people wandering around them.

Some people actually want you to adopt these dogs and provide them homes.

Notice the streets are lower than the sidewalks. The sidewalks hid the plumbing, yes, I really said plumbing. This society was very advanced. Notice the two stones in the middle of the street. This was a two chariot street since two chariots could pass side by side. The stones were designed to be the width between the chariot wheels. These stones also gave the people a place to step as they crossed the street without getting their feet wet. Every morning the streets were flushed with water to clean them.

Every several blocks was a water fountain, still providing water from the aquaduct system, just as it was in 79 A.D. They encouraged people to drink and fill their water bottles from these fountains.

Even their walls were decorated by the use of different colors and the creation of mosaic designs.

To go along with the fast food they also had bakeries.

Many of the dining rooms had murals painted with outdoor scenes, like you were looking out a window. This was to make the room seem larger and to make the diners feel more at ease.

One of the first indoor kitchens and around the corner, a toilet. Both were located in the same location so they only had to pipe water to one room.

View of Mt. Vesusvius through one of the aqaduct arches. These held water and provided water pressure to the surrounding area. These arches were also found every few blocks.

From the outside the homes didn't look like much, no windows or much decoration. Just continuous buildings with doors. But inside were fabulous courts and pools in the center, sometimes even gardens, with bedrooms and dining rooms around the outside of the center court. Most of the pools and courts were quite elaborately designed.

An interior garden of a wealthy merchant's home.

But even then, looks were important. Many homes had columns made of brick and then were covered with a thin layer of marble. This was much cheaper than building columns of pure marble.

This was the painted design on an interior wall.

This was painted plaster, but it looks like wallpaper. I imagine these homes were beautiful before they were destroyed.

Even communities back then had a red light district. The brothels had built in beds and to describe what was offered were detailed paintings above the rooms. The paintings I did not publish because they were quite graphic.

This was supposed to be an indoor toilet.

The theater. This would have been an open air theater for large gatherings and entertainment such as plays.

Some areas which have not been excavated yet. Actually, I don't understand how someone would even know what to look for or how to start the excavation to reveal the places I have seen here.

This is a small theater next to the large theater above. This once had a roof and was used for small musical venues and poetry readings.

Several places have vineyards. They have done DNA research and these grape vines are the same as what was planted here in 79 A.D. You can even buy the wine made from these grapes in the visitor/gift center.

Burial grounds were never found inside city walls, but just outside. They had elaborate crypts and many had a bust of the person buried sitting in the alcove in front of the tomb.

At the far end of the community was the colisium.

We took a chance that the lions wouldn't be released while we were down in the arena inside the colisium.

We are now outside the city walls looking back. Most people may think since Mt. Vesusvius erupted over Pompeii, that it would be lava which destroyed the city, but that was not the case. Instead, it was volcanic ash, as much as 9-15 feet of it fell in just 24 hours, collapsing roofs and buring buildings intact. That is why the murals and paintings and buildings are so well preserved. The volcano started rumbling several days before it erupted and after the eruption it took hours before the cloud of ash arrived in Pompeii. The people living there had never seen a volcano erupt and had no idea what was happening, but luckily for most people, they fled in time to be saved. Only 2000 of the 20000 who lived here were killed in the eruption, according to the records they have found. It was nearly 1500 years before it was accidently rediscovered.