Pompeii and Vesuvius
Today was going to be a huge day so we planned to get off to a very early start. We had the car packed and we hit the road just as the police closed the old town road to let the bambinis walk to school. We had no choice but to sit and wait half an hour watching the hundreds of bambinis swarm around the car. We took the same twisty mountain road that we had traveled on the bike two days previous. [It was far less exhilarating in a car].
We found our way easily to Pompeii (Matt had given me complete directions of the correct way to find it, minus Stuart's "helpful hints").
I have very distinct memories of Pompeii as a child. It was so totally different from what I remembered! A lot more of the city has been revealed and all the good stuff has been carted off to the Naples museum. Every page of the guidebook tells you what used to be there - and a wax replica can still be seen there - but the real thing is elsewhere. Kind of a downer really. We covered about 1/2 the town in two hours, until our legs were screaming for mercy. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed off to Part II - Vesuvius. Again it was easy to find and I am lucky to have the BOSS as my navigator. We parked at "the top" and read the sign which said "15 minutes walk" to the crater. We dutifully paid our 6.50 euros each and started up the path. At the first turn we got a glimpse of what lay ahead. A kilometre of steep gravel path winding straight up the mountain. They had modified the sign to read "15 minutes non-stop walking if you are in good health and those who suffer from heart conditions should not attempt it". Nice of them to let people know before they pay their entry fee!
45 minutes later the BOSS and I reached the top to be rewarded by stunning views and we spent the next hour being captivated by the crater.
Ruins are nice but the power of nature is awesome.
Although I had a great sense of achievement having reached the top, I resisted the urge to reward myself by buying the glitter decorated lava carving of Jesus. (see photos).
Our time schedule for being back in Rome by 6.30pm was now totally blown. We still had to find a post office to get the helmets and panniers to Switzerland and as it was Friday we had to do it today or we would end up carting them to Florence and Venice with us.
We drove into the town and inadvertently ended up in the one-way quagmire traffic system at peak hour - fun!!
We stumbled across a post office by accident and the two guys behind the counter took pity on us. They would not accept it if it was not in a box and they didn't have a box big enough. With a bit of searching they located a box which had contained stationary supplies but now the box could not be sent unless it was further wrapped in brown paper to cover the writing. The BOSS and I trooped off down the street (with a handwritten note from the postmaster) to purchase the required brown paper. They finally managed to repack the whole lot satisfactorily into the most enormous box you have ever seen and send it on its way to Switzerland. It had only taken an hour and a half.
The last leg was the three hour road trip to Rome and then the finding of the hotel at night. It was way beyond the time I was supposed to have returned the car, but attempts to let them know that I would be late, were met with frustrating recorded messages in Italian. They were telling me to push "1" for something and "2" for something else but even pushing every number plus the asterix never got me an operator, so I gave up.
The sunset on the approach to Rome was dazzling and once again my navigator got us to our destination with the minimum of fuss. The Rome hostel only had 2 beds available - bunk beds in a mixed dorm room of 8 - a bit of a drop in standards from our 3 bedroom luxury apartment with leather furniture but we had a shower and fell into bed most gratefully.