I must have been in fourth or fifth grade when I learned about Pompeii. I was entranced by the story and history. All those lives lost – a city buried and rediscovered. I yearned to visit the archeological site, and even sat through a painfully boring “slide show” my mom’s boss shared with us about his trip there (it was only boring because he shared nothing about Pompeii and everything about the tour group he went with…). When we booked our trip to the Amalfi coast, I hadn’t realized how close Pompeii was to Naples and Amalfi.
We hadn’t driven since arriving on Saturday – but we had planned to go on a day trip to Pompeii today, and that was going to require use of the car. We woke up early to call the front desk and ask them to bring it around the front by 8:15. We ate a quick breakfast (I found a stand that sells avocados so I am the weirdo pealing them at the continental breakfast to mash on my gluten free pitas – and top with the delicious sun ripened tomatoes they serve here!) and then hit the road. We opted to take the mountain route over the seaside route – mostly to see if it was as terrifying and just to do something different.
The mountain route was amazing. The curves are crazy, and the drivers are still maniacs, but there are less of them on the road and no one just parking on the side. No pedestrians, no tourists, just locals. Potentially a sleeping dog (we hoped!). When we reached the top, we were absolutely amazed by the view of Vesuvius and the city below. It was truly breathtaking and welcomed after a very green drive up.
After figuring out the parking situation, we skipped the lines to pick up our tickets (will call people!) and entered the park. Pompeii is massive. We wandered for more than three hours and still missed entire sections. Because September is the tail end of high season, we enjoyed significantly less people and tour groups (though there was a fair share of them). The ruins are really something special.
Fun facts we learned along the way –
- There are holes in the sidewalk curb – these were to tie your horse or donkey to (the original parking spot)
- Most people in Pompeii didn’t have kitchens, so there were fast food restaurants EVERYWHERE.
- The city boasted three amphitheaters. The largest one could hold 20,000 people and cheering from the stadium upset a neighboring city so much, there was an all out brawl that caused the Roman “government” to shut it down for ten years (but that only lasted for three due to an earthquake that hit).
- We saw the laundromat where clothing was washed in urine to remove stains.
- The lower class worshipped Egyptian gods in hopes of life after death. Mozart visited the site in the late 1760s and was inspired to write The Magic Flute.
- One of the conspirators that murdered Julius Caesar owned a home in Pompeii. It was impressive.
- A few homes took up entire city blocks – one of them had a swimming pool inside.
We left the park around lunchtime (splitting a granola bar and banana to make it back to Minori because we had leftover fish waiting!). The drive back was mostly uneventful. We did get on the wrong highway but Google faithfully turned us around. This time we opted to take the sea route back. It was not nearly has horrible as the first time around. I was relieved. James was relieved. I think arriving on a Saturday afternoon on one of the last summer weekends did not work in our favor. I could see driving here in October being rather pleasant and almost fun!
It had started raining on our drive home. We had originally planned to do a walking tour of Naples but it was cancelled due to low interest. So we returned the car to the garage, and wandered around Minori for a bit (using our umbrellas, and not getting flooded out this time). We stopped by the Antiquarium – Villa Maritima – an ancient Roman villa that was two thousand years old. The structure was well preserved due to floods and debris that covered it until the 1930s when it was excavated. Very cool, and free of charge!
Afterwards, we stopped by a different bakery so James could pick up some cookies, and I could get an espresso. I had it Italian style, standing at the counter, quickly drinking it, and relishing how much better it was than the hotel coffee. I wish I knew that a few days ago!
Given the change in our afternoon plans, we decided to try another restaurant in Minori. There is a little farm in the hillside of Minori that had rave reviews and also a gluten free menu called Agriturismo Villa Maria. We made the trek upwards (this was once again, many stairs) to be greeted by beautiful views of Minori and Ravello. Once we made it to the top, we had to climb a steep driveway and even more stairs to get to the villa!
There is no menu. The family cooks what is caught fresh or harvested from their garden. After multiple tries they finally understood “senza glutine” and we were off to a marathon of food. We started with an antipasto plate – all homemade cured meats, cheeses and vegetables from the garden. Our pasta course had eggplant, tomato sauce and mozzarella (mine was gluten free). Our main course was swordfish – it was amazingly fresh and once again, they served it with the most potent lemon. For dessert, they brought James a homemade cake and me fruit. The wine was made onsite, and refreshing and delicious. Our total bill for a bottle of wine and all the plates of food was 70 euros.
We made our descent back down the mountain and feel fast asleep.