As we have discussed before, Kim was extremely focused on sleep throughout our trip with almost no exception. However the trip to Pompeii was that exception considering it was one of the main attractions on Kim’s list before the trip began. I did not share this enthusiasm and the 6am wake up call to hop on a tourist bus only increased this sentiment.
Given my state of mind for this two hour drive, I was in no mood to listen to tour guides ramble through a grainy bus speaker system. Especially when the tour guides began to go into painful (pun intended) detail of the different ways the Romans would kill their prisoners of war to make an example of them. Call me crazy, but hearing about crucifixions and impalement is not on my preferred wake-up story list.
It wasn’t all depressing as they did point out when the highway crossed over the old Appian Way, but of course mentioned how the Roman’s crucified about 6,000 prisoners of war every 30 meters for miles after the defeat of Spartacus. I must admit that I began to lighten up to the tour guide since the Appian Way does stand out with the palm trees lining the road planted to shade the marching soldiers. I could not have been more excited to stop and stretch my legs with a nice cup of espresso at our first pit stop.
After piling back on our bus, the tour guides had shifted topics to our destination: Pompeii. Of course they started into the discussion of what killed everyone in the city. Which was of course not fiery hot lava, but much less “glamourous” (as compared to the movie ‘Pompeii’) pyroclastic flows. They were also sure to mention that the modern city of Naples is ill prepared for another eruption of Vesuvius, which is overdue for an eruption. I must be missing something with this tip generating technique.
By now, we had arrived to Vesuvius which is scaled partially by a single lane winding road in a tour bus. The tour guides egged us on to clap and cheer for the bus driver successfully making it up the road. I was more impressed with the parking job on the side of a volcano. We were given a generous amount of time to walk the remaining distance to the top of the crater (about 200 meters). I’m sure this path began as rocks for a nice hike, but the years of heavy foot traffic turned this path into dust. This made the steep climb exponentially more difficult, but we won the non-existent race to summit against our sandal wearing tour peers. Our reward at the summit was spectacular views of the Bay of Naples and the crater.
After taking it all in, we made our way back down, albeit covered in a layer of dust and sweat, to discover the end of the road absolutely packed with other tour groups, including a group from Oklahoma State. I resisted my urges to yell ‘BOOMER’ and we boarded the bus to head to lunch. We headed to a pizzaria which was touted by our morbid tour guides as the ‘Best Pizza in Italy’. The pizzaria was the size of a Walmart and the parking lot contained only tour buses. The food was slow to be delivered and could adequately be described as the ‘Best Pizza on the Direct Route from Vesuvius to the Ruins of Pompeii’.
We continued our tour to the highlight, walking around the ruins of Pompeii. Our tour guides left us to a local tour guide to give us more details on the ruins. It was at this point that I realized the tour guides from the bus would probably be more accurately called morbid adult chaperons. That aside, the city was incredible. The day before we had toured the ruins of ancient Rome, but the eruption, and subsequent pyroclastic flows, had preserved the entire city ancient Pompeii. This preservation was in stark contrast to the sites in Rome as it was almost impossible to visualize how the ruins of Rome would have appeared originally.
Our adult chaperons filled the time on the way back to Rome by giving us personalized restaurant recommendations near our hotels, too bad ours were all closed. Luckily for us, we googled an amazing spot right across from our hotel. After some pasta and a bottle of wine, we headed back to our hotel leaving the credit card behind. Luckily, our waitress ran after us screaming “Sir! Sir!”. Our tipsy selves laughed and kidded with each other for leaving the card behind all of the way home.