The air outside my window is buzzing with the sounds of a modern city. A dog barks somewhere far off, and someone walks down the hall outside my room. I have to remind myself that this city is thousands of years old, and some of the most iconic structures in the world are a mere kilometre away.
Cara and I took the train from Napoli to Roma today. We had a productive afternoon once we got settled into our new hostel, but I’ll get back to that later.
On day 4 of our trip, Cara and I did an enormous walking loop through Napoli. We started the day with a hike up to Castel Sant Elmo, one of the old defensive bastions of Napoli. The route involved LITERALLY hundreds of stairs, but when we got to the top, the view (and the breeze) was well worth it. The castle was magnificent, from the outside, and after a bit of a hiccup trying to figure out how to get to the top, we emerged onto the upper level of the castle and enjoyed a breathtaking view over all of Napoli. We could clearly see Spaccanopoli, Mt. Vesuvius, and many other Neapolitan landmarks. We set out sights on Castel dell’Ovo.
Of course, what goes up, must come down. So we took a different route involving at least as many stairs, and a number of narrow, switchback roads to descend all the way down to the coast, where we found the Castle of the Egg. The castle was beautiful and we could feel the history in its walls. We also enjoyed the countless wedding parties and photographers taking advantage of the scenic locale.
We continued our walk around Napoli and landed at the National Archaeological Museum. We were disappointed to find that a number of the most interesting exhibits were closed (including the famous one with the numerous plaster casts of the findings at Pompei), but we were able to enjoy many other recoveries from Pompei (including mosaics, artifacts, and statues), as well as a lot of other interesting art (so many statues!)
For dinner we went to the Neapolitan establishment Pizzeria da Michele with our roommates, which has been operating for something silly like 130 years. They serve two kinds of pizza: margherita and marinara. The food comes out fast, hot, delicious, and cheap.
On day 5, Cara and I made the trek out to Pompei again where we caught a bus to the top of Mt. Vesuvius. We got to ride in capable, all terrain buses that carried us to within 200 meters of the summit. We then hiked a 600m trail to reach the crater at the top. There, we learned that the volcano, while dormant, is still at risk for erupting in the future. Volcanologists monitor the volcano 24 hours a day, and have systems in place to predict an eruption (specifically, the diastrous pyroclastic type that destroyed Pompei). The real problem, however, is not predicting it, but evacuating the million or so people that currently live and work in the eruption zone.
Next, we visited a lesser known victim of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79AD—Ercolano (or Herculaneum, in English). This city was buried rapidly in up to 16 meters of ash. The end result was extremely well preserved structures. Some of the places we saw still had carbonized wood doors and the iron work in their windows. While much smaller than Pompei, it was far better preserved, and its position in the middle of modern day Ercolano gives a stunning perspective on the passage of time.
After Ercolano, we returned to Napoli and visited the Castel Nuovo before finding our way to Starita Pizza (yes, we lived on Pizza while in Napoli). This was, by far, the best we had (thanks Lainey!) in Napoli. A definite recommendation.
Now, back to Roma. This afternoon, we took a 16km walk around the city. We visited the Trajan Forum, caught a view of the Colosseum and the rest of the archaeological structures nearby, and admired the modern Monumento de Vittoriano, which is an enormous monument that emulates the appearance of the ancient Roman structures in their… better years.
After this, we walked past the scaffolded Trevi Fountain to the Piazza de Popolo and enjoyed an excellent view of Roma, including dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and the aforementioned Monumento de Vittoriano. A quick stop by the Spanish Stairs revealed that both of the sites (the church, and the Bernini fountain) were obscured with scaffolding. Cara and I have decided that Roma is the City of Construction.
We finished the evening at a small restaurant recommended to us by our hostel’s front desk staff. The recc was a good one, as the food was fresh, delicious, and reasonably priced. It seemed to be a place frequented by locals and infrequented by tourists, which is, perhaps, a good sign.
Now, that’s enough of an update for now. We need to get some rest for a big day of museums and exploration tomorrow!