Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 27- To Oplontis...and beyond!

(originally posted on my facebook page on July 8th 2013)

Well, we're finally out of the the Hovel, aka Casa de Stinche, aka the Termini Turd. Adios muchachos! Trading the orderly (by comparison) chaos that is Rome for the complete anarchy that rules the south. As the graffiti on the wall in Napoli said, "This is an Anti-Fascist City!" Indeed, anarchy is the rule of law here, where twelve year olds drive their scooters down the sidewalk, and everyone ignores the signs that say "Crossing the tracks is strictly forbidden!" The only thing we were truly lamenting was the absence of public water fountains, which are mercifully plenty in Rome and most towns north of there. 
Naples is a dense crush of humanity in its purest form. 

 Took the cheap train down to Naples with the intention of seeing the excellent Archeological Museum there, which has many of Pompeii and Herculaneum's best articles. As I said before, the train system in Italy is pretty darn great- runs on time, has AC, and doesn't cost much, unless you want to ride on the bullet trains. Our ticket to Naples cost 11 Euros. The Freccia Rossa (fast train) was 43 Euros. No brainer. Time we got.

Smart and cheap (if you know how to pick 'em)

I did however, regret it somewhat after we made the climb up to the museum in Naples only to find that we had missed the fresco collection by 10 minutes! Museum is open until 7 pm, but because they don't have any money to pay the guards, they close the frescoes and mosaics (which is of course the only reason I go there) at 2. Bummer!! Lost an hour going there and back, plus we paid 10 Euros to stash our luggage at the train station and bought two Metro tickets to get up to the museum. Didn't pay on the way back down. Take that Naples!

Graffiti is much more prevalent in the south of Italy than up north.

Oh well, back to the station and got tickets for the Circumvesiana, the train that goes around the base of Mt. Vesuvius. Due to some confusion on the platform (Naples is nothing if not confusing) we ended up on the wrong train, which I recognized after we started to head up the wrong side of Vesuvius. The difference between Roma and Napoli is immediately noticeable on the train. Neapolitans are a noisy and boisterous bunch! So much yelling, gesticulating, waving, crying, laughing, poking, etc, etc. They're also pretty friendly, as we learned from a guy who helped us to determine we were indeed on the wrong train. We quickly got off to turn around, but of course the next train in the other direction didn't come for half an hour, during which time we watched a growing thunderstorm on the flank of Vesuvius and looked down at a beautiful tomato garden growing between apricot trees.

Vesuvius lurking in the background of most vistas in the Bay of Naples. Makes a nice navigational device if you get lost on the train (like we did!)

We finally got turned back around to the right direction (lost another hour there) and decided to short stop at Oplontis, where there is a remarkable Roman era villa that might have belonged to Poppaea, the wife of Nero. Whoever owned it was definitely wealthy- the place is huge! Not huge by Renaissance standards, but huge if you've been to Pompeii before. It has at least 3 large peristyles (courtyards) and an olympic size pool. And they haven't even uncovered all of it. It had begun to rain when we arrived, so we pretty much had the run of the place, and I think the darkness kind of gave some approximation of what it was like back then. 

Olympic sized swimming pool at the Villa of Poppaea (Nero's wife) in Oplontis.

Spent a good hour wandering there, taking in some very fine decorations, and then hopped back on the train to finish our trip to Pompeii, where we'll be for a couple of days. Got into Pompeii around 8, found our hotel, which DOESN'T STINK, downed a whole bunch of water, and then headed out to find some food. We love this town! Everyone here loves to party! They do the passegiata here with vigor- everyone one is out in the street for food, drink, gelati, and more. Fireworks have been going off pretty much since the thunder stopped this afternoon. When I asked the waiter at our restaurant if it was a holiday he just shrugged and said, "no, they do this every Saturday and Sunday." I mean, this is the strong stuff- the big kind you see on 4th of July! Loud reverberating booms, not little firecracker bangs. Fortunately, now at 11, it seems to have let up. Last time we were here as a family (6 years ago) we were in a hostel that was very close to the piazza, on a Saturday night. It also happened to be extremely hot, and the hostel had no AC. So the windows were open to the noise all night, and it still didn't seem to help with the heat. This place is way better!!
Passegiata in the town of Pompeii is very pleasant!

No idea, but it was half off at only 39 euros. Tempting, but....

So we'll be heading over to the site tomorrow early and I better finish this up before I end up doing my usual stay up late get up early thing. Uh oh- might have spoken too soon on the fireworks thing- a big boomer just went off! Now we're having another incredible show right out our hotel window. Hope it doesn't go all night!

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