The Amalfi Coast

5 02 2012

view over Sorrento

In our recent European sojourn (actually it was May 2011 – time flies) we spent not-enough-time in Italy, based in Sorrento. On our first day in Sorrento we thought we were booked into a tour of Pompeii and Vesuvius but turns out it was the second day. So this left us with an unplanned day. We hopped on a tour of the Amalfi Peninsula. If I had but known, I would probably have taken the boat to Capri, but I didn’t work out how close it was until halfway through the tour. Nonetheless, it was fabulous exploring the peninsula, and I do like a tour where somebody who knows what they are talking about tells you what you are looking at.

So these photos were taken from a tour bus touring the Amalfi coast. Unfortunately I can’t remember all of the details of the sights we saw – the lighthouse rocks on Capri (viewed from the Mainland), the islands of the Sirens. But I can clearly remember the lemon orchards, sheltered from the weather by brush structures – and a renowned source of Limoncello, which I came to love so much as an after-dinner aperitif!

When in Sorrento we frequently had lemon sorbet as a dessert (yes I know it is supposed to be an appetite refresher between courses, but, none-the-less) and we have reproduced it at home. Basically the dessert runs like this: lemon sorbet, very finely grated lime zest, couple of spoonfuls of Limoncello. If you don’t have Limoncello, use vodka. This is an amazingly simple and yummy dessert and very refreshing, particularly if you like lemon. Which I do.

So please enjoy some photos from the Amalfi Coast. I am hoping to be back there soon.

lemon trees growing in the shade

hotel up a steep cliff from the road

Capri

Capri, with Lighthouse Rock formation on left

tall ship off Sorrento

fruit shop - featuring a giant yellow citrus fruit called Cidra

Sorrento

If you liked this post, you might also like:
A childhood dream (Pompeii)
Sorrento – an after-thought
Vesuvius
More Pompeii photos





More Pompeii photos

5 02 2012

gymnasium – change-rooms and storage-rooms are built into the walls around the edge

The amazing thing about Pompeii is how large it is, The town was considered to have a population of anywhere between 12,000 and 22,000. It was a modern metropolis in 79AD when it was destroyed. It boasted plumbing – water piped into homes through lead pipes – storm-water drains, sign-posts on the street corners. The streets were paved and had footpaths and stepping-stones so you could cross the streets without walking in the horse manure. It had theatres, a gymnasium, bars, bakeries, a large fresh food market, and most famously, brothels. This was not a farming community, this was a city. When we visited, our guide was asked why we didn’t visit both of the amphitheatres. His answer was that if we had wanted to visit the other one it would have entailed a hour’s walk from the first one. It is a big place. (It was also quite hot and very humid when we were there.)

So here are a few (OK, really a lot) more photos from our visit to Pompeii last year. You might also like to Google Street-view of Pompeii (which will show you the exteriors of the buildings, but also the massive size of the place). Almost all of the rooves were destroyed in Pompeii, so where you see rooves on buildings, they are probably reconstructions to protect the interiors of the buildings.

And yes, unless you are an archeologist with a job on the digs, everywhere you go in Pompeii there will be tourists. Lots of them. But it was a city, so maybe it was about this busy when Vesuvius exploded in 79AD.

For further information on Pompeii there are plenty of books with fabulous photographs of the site and the treasures that have been found both here and at Herculaneum. Here are a few suggestions:

The Last Days Of Pompeii

Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii

The Wonders Of Pompeii

The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found

amphitheatre inside the theatre

detail of carvings on one of the columns at the gymnasium

amphitheatre

details of the gymnasium / theatre complex

detail of the marble counter-top in the bar

paved street with raised footpaths

stepping-stones to cross the street without stepping in manure. The stepping-stones are wide enough apart to allow the wheels of chariots to pass through easily

some of the brothel "menu"

a stone "bed" in a brothel room. Presumably there must have been a mattress!

more "menu"

more "menu"

menu in the brothel

bar - theatre in the background.. The basins in the counter are for cooling jugs of wine.

shop with oven (possibly a bakery)

water fountain (drinking water)

Sacrificial Altar in the temple of Diana and Apollo

temple of Diana and her brother, Apollo, statue of Apollo

statue in the temple of Diana and Apollo

statue in the temple of Diana and Apollo

statue in the temple of Diana and Apollo

urns and other relics in the storage area, in the former food markets

reconstruction of a body, urns and other relics

cart, body and urns

reconstruction of a dog

plaster reconstruction of a body, surrounded by urns and other relics

not a pleasant death

Fish and wheat market

detail of carving on a column in the storage area of the markets

urns and other artefacts in storage area in the markets

meat and fish markets

paintings of the menu in the markets

row of shop fronts on the street

rain catchment in the front room of a house

a bar - the basins on the counter are for cooling wine

a bakery, with ovens visible

shop counters

wide city streets

lead pipes for plumbing. They presumably didn't know the dangers of lead poisoning.

storm-water drain in the street

tourists on a street

apparently a "good-luck" symbol, carved in the road. These are all over Pompeii on walls and roads.

main square

main square

main square

courtyard entrance to public baths

courtyard entrance to public baths

public baths

public baths

detail of wall carvings inside the public baths

detail of wall carvings inside the public baths

public baths

font inside the public baths

font in the Roman Baths

detail of marble craftsmanship inside the Roman Baths

exterior of private house

entrance to private house, mosaic "cave canem" - beware of the dog

courtyard letting light into the centre of a private house

private house looking to front entrance through atrium with rainwater collector

wall mural inside private house

household altar in the courtyard

household altar in a private house

streets of Pompeii

monument in the graveyard / mausoleum section, outside the city gates of Pompeii

exterior of a farmhouse outside the city gates of Pompeii. The roof is a reconstruction.

machine for pressing grapes

elaborate and bright murals inside the farmhouse. Experts are unsure whether this represents a cross-dressing cult or same-sex marriage....they knew how to party in Roman Pompeii!

atrium with rainwater catchment

farmhouse outside the gates of Pompeii. The roof is a reconstruction.

courtyard in farmhouse

farmhouse decoration - either men dressing as women based on Bacchus, or a woman being prepared for marriage

If you liked this post, you might also like:
A childhood dream (Pompeii)
Sorrento – an after-thought
Vesuvius
The Amalfi Coast





Vesuvius

31 01 2012

Vesuvius looms over the scene of its destruction - the town square at Pompeii

No visit to Pompeii would be complete without visiting the origin of the destruction – the volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

Vesuvius is located approximately 11km from Pompeii and is clearly visible looming over the town from the market square. It is considered to be an active volcano, well over-due another eruption, but currently lies dormant. And lucky too – the very populous city of Naples is also on the slopes and adjacent to Vesuvius.

Pictures of Vesuvius found in the ruins of Pompeii show it to be a pointed mountain with heavy forests all over it. This is taken to indicate that it had probably been dormant for some time prior to its famous 79AD eruption which blew the top off the mountain, gassed and then buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Vesuvius is a volcano inside a volcano. Standing at the top adjacent to the crater, a much larger crater is visible around the edges. Many lava flows from previous centuries are also visible on the slopes as unvegetated areas.

The climb to the top is very steep on soft gravel pathways – not recommended for those with cardio, pulmonary or mobility issues. When we reached the top it started raining – sweet relief for those of us who are extremely unfit (me). The crater itself is cordoned off and is extremely steep, dropping a couple of hundred metres. A small wisp of smoke was rising from one side of the crater, near the top.

one of the plaster replicas at Pompeii. They were gassed, then their bodies encased in ash. When the ashes were dug out about 200 years ago, plaster was poured into the cavities in the ash and replicas of the bodies of humans and animals - and whole families - were found.

view of the City of Naples from the top of Vesuvius. Hope they have an evacuation plan and plenty of warning! The brown area without foliage in the middle of the photo is previous lava flows

detail of the rock inside the crater

vertical crater wall

view of the upper section of the path that winds around Vesuvius - it's steeper than it looks

a wisp of smoke rising from the crater wall

the rim of the outer crater that Vesuvius sits within

this section of the outer crater is known as The Man - because it looks like a face in profile

If you liked this post, you might also like:
A childhood dream (Pompeii)
Sorrento – an after-thought





Sorrento – an afterthought

1 11 2011

View over Sorrento on the drive from Naples

While we were on the other side of the world, we decided to hop across to Italy to have a look at Pompeii, one of my childhood dreams. An afterthought, almost. But a fabulous afterthought, as it turned out.

Luckily for us, the travel agent suggested we stay in Sorrento rather than Naples. Naples is of course the major city and airport, but is renowned for crime. The air pollution is pretty unbelievable as well, for someone coming from the comparatively clear blue skies of Australia.

Cruise liners and tall ship, Bay of Naples off Sorrento

Sorrento, technically a town about an hour’s drive from Naples, is much safer to wander around day and night, as well as being set up for the tourist market. I say technically a town, because the drive from Naples airport to Sorrento was unceasingly houses – there appears to be no break between any of the towns. They just run on one to another. Quite how you know which town you are in, when one ends and another begins, I don’t know. Anyway, I digress.

more laneways

Sorrento is gorgeous. Its narrow laneways and historic buildings sit atop cliffs that drop sharply into the Bay of Naples. Deep chasms cut their way through the town, affording views out to the Bay from unexpected places. Opposite our hotel was the end of a chasm entirely covered in greenery, with an old abandoned mill at the bottom.

ruined Mill at the bottom of a chasm opposite our hotel

laneways in Sorrento

The main square is lined with restaurants. Nearby the laneways form a permanent marketplace where fine jewellery shops abut tourist souvenirs shops. Exquisite marquetry is available in anything from a jewellery box through to a dining room table. Volcanic rock carved into statues (glitter optional). High class clothes and shoe shops, next to touristy t-shirt shops. Murano glass artwork, hand-painted views of the Amalfi Coast. Limoncello is 12 Euros for a litre – if only I could have convinced Australian customs to let me bring it into the country. The Limoncello here is much more lemony than anything I have tried back home.

Sorrento Town Square

The children loved our quick stop-over in Sorrento. The people were very friendly, seemed to love children and loved talking to them – and spoke English. This is the benefit of hanging around a tourist area! The boys were quite over struggling to understand another language by this stage.

The best restaurant we tried was a new one called Refood. It is owned by the same people who owned the hotel we were staying in – they talked us into trying their restaurant. We were very glad we did! Great atmosphere, some amazing Murano glass light fittings. Really fresh top quality food, and a wide variety. My only criticism of Sorrento restaurants is that generally they tended to serve a fairly standard “Italian” fare – lasagne, pasta, pizza etc. A little bit “same”. Re-food was different – a wide variety of really unique modern cuisine. The entree Trilogy was spectacular – swordfish and salmon, stacked in a salad with a lovely creamy dressing.

My only regret – somehow I didn’t realise how close to Capri we were. We could see it from the coast, even see the town on the island. Had I realised, we would have had a day-trip there as well. Never mind, we’ll just have to go back!

The Island of Capri, viewed from the mainland

If you liked this post you might also like some more travel posts…..
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Napoleon’s Tomb
Galeries Lafayette
Versailles





A childhood dream

24 07 2011

Vesuvius looms over the town square at Pompeii

In about 1974 or 1975 an exhibition of artefacts from Pompeii toured Australia. I visited it at the SA Museum in Adelaide. I was probably about 9 years old. I still have a postcard of one of the statues, carefully stuck into the back of my childhood photo album.

I had been fascinated to hear that when they were excavating Pompeii they kept coming across holes in the ash with bones in them. They tried filling the holes with plaster before they exposed them – and discovered that they were producing plaster casts of the people and animals who had died when Vesuvius erupted.

My lasting memory of the exhibition was of the plaster cast of a dog – arched around on its back with its legs in the air.

Fast forward to 2011.I am in the main square of Pompeii. Vesuvius looms large in the background, ever the reminder of why this town is the way it is. Pompeii is massive. They estimate between 12000 and 22000 people lived here. It is also remarkable not just for the preservation, but for the things we can find out about Roman life. They had plumbing throughout the town – lead pipes. There were water fountains and wells. The houses each collected water for the central use. Storm-drains funnelled rain away from the footpaths.

Stepping stones enabled people to cross the road without stepping in manure from the chariots. Deep ruts have been ground into the stones paving the roads – evidence of the iron-rimmed chariot wheels. This is one of the most amazing things I saw – evidence of actual human activity worn into stone.

inside a Pompeiian house

The houses were large with spacious rooms. Bars, bakeries and shops lined the paved streets. The most popular visit for tourists these days is the brothel – complete with paintings on the wall – our trilingual guide explains in Italian, English and French, that it is “like the menu in MacDonalds – you point at what you want”. Peppe is not only fluent in three languages, he is witty in them as well.

The plaster replica of a dog from Pompeii that I remember from my childhood

The baths were made of marble, as were the counter-tops in the bars. Houses had tiled mosaic entrances and brightly coloured murals on the walls. Pictures of Vesuvius show a forested pointed mountain, very unlike the denuded flattened top that exists today, post-explosion.

The plaster casts are eerie. Some of them, you can see the bones through the plaster. They apparently died from gas prior to the town being covered by ash. It wasn’t a pleasant death – the bodies are contorted. Some hold their hands over their faces. Families lie together – parents cocoon children.

In the afternoon we climbed Vesuvius, a very steep climb. The crater at the top is large and still smoking. The volcano overlooks Naples. They say another explosion is overdue, but that when it happens they will know in advance.

evidence of life - ruts from Roman chariot wheels

This was my childhood dream, to go to Pompeii. Next time I want to see Herculaneum, the other town lost to the same 79AD explosion.