We awoke Wednesday to breathtaking views of Mt. Vesuvius from our balcony. Appropriate, given our first stop of the day once on land was the ancient city of Pompeii. We dropped anchors in the bay between Sorrento and Capri and tendered over to the shoreline. We met our driver, who took us straight to Pompeii for our private tour with Elsa.
Words simply cannot do justice to this historical city discovered under seven meters of volcanic rock and ash. It is both overwhelming and awe-inspiring. To think the original Pompeii was believed to be first inhabited by the Oscans in 600 BC is almost incomprehensible. When the Romans invaded in the first century BC, they built on top of the original Oscan city. This is the Pompeii of today – filled with Roman influence, architecture, and stellar engineering for their time. When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, it is believed that as many as 20,000 residents lived in Pompeii. It was a wealthy city, with palaces, a basilica, two theaters, one amphitheater, and countless shops and residences. It is likely that many of the city’s wealthy residents escaped the eruption; it’s just as likely those who died were mostly slaves and the poor left behind.
We were shocked at the level of preservation of the ruins that have been uncovered – walls with fresco paintings, mosaic tile floors, and travertine water fountains. We were equally shocked by the sophistication of plumbing for heated water in their baths, aqua ducts, and humidity control with grooved ceilings for condensation to run down, just to name a few. We are talking about 100 BC! Incredible.
When the excavation began in the 1700s, numerous bodies were found. The ash and debris created a hard shell around the bodies, and the skeletons remained encased within this shell. In the late 1800s, one of the archeologists recognized that he could add plaster to the interior of the shell to create a true life-size form, including the actual skeleton, of the individual. The photo below is of one of the intact bodies of a young boy in a squatted position, likely holding his nose from the ash and gases that eventually took his life.
Elsa left us with our driver at the end of our tour, and we promptly drove to Positano – with glorious views of the Amalfi Coast along the way. What a charming little coastal town! Our short visit only whet our appetites for a return and longer stay in the future. We took in the cliffside views of the town and shoreline below, visited a couple of shops, and capped off our time with an incredible lunch at Al Palazzo in the Hotel Palazzo Murat. Little did we know this was a Michelin-recognized restaurant. The food was spectacular!
After another scenic drive back to Sorrento, we tendered back to the ship, and spent the early evening poolside, taking in the views of this magical Italian coast.
We are looking forward to a relaxing full day at sea tomorrow, as we make our way back over to the French Riviera. A visit to the spa for hot stone massages, plus sun and relaxation complete with poolside cocktails, is on our agenda! Ciao, Italy!