2005 Letter from Pompeii: We continued on past Naples heading south to Pompei. The location of the campground here in Pompei is almost perfectly suited to us. It is literally right across the street from the archeological site, the ancient city of Pompeii. (You spell the names of the ancient city and the modern town differently.) The train station is an honest ten-minute walk away, going slowly. You can catch a commuter train either to Naples in one direction or Sorrento in the opposite direction. Once in Sorrento, you can catch the bus that takes you down the coast to the extremely beautiful and unique towns of Positano and Amalfi. Both train and bus are inexpensive. In Sorrento, you can even catch a boat to the Isle of Capri. We wonít move for a while. This location gives us the opportunity to do a lot of tourist stuff. Unfortunately, the supermarket is a long way away. But the location, and the fact that this is a very nice campground, comfortable, clean and well-run, and with staff who are cheerful and give information freely made us decide to stay.

Our guide books all wrote about the dogs that are all over the Scavi (excavation, ruins). Our thought was that they might be nasty or run in packs. No. Even the dogs in Italy are easy going. They sleep on the street right in the middle of the hordes of tourists, and, though dirty, are well-fed and mellow as can be. Indeed they are not only in the ruins but all over Pompei, including our campground. The thing is, they do not belong to anyone. They are free spirits, accorded by the town some of the same rights of citizenship that we Americans have. Certainly they have been granted freedom of assembly and of speech. I donít know if they can vote but they do not seem to be interested in politics. In fact they seem to be much more interested in interpersonal relations. The dogs here in the campground came to greet us warmly on our first arrival and they wait for us to return after a hard day trodding the pavements around the sights and greet us warmly, tails awag as soon as we cross the entrance to the camp.

The first full day we were here, we decided that Pompeii was first on the list. We bought a book at a souvenir stall the day before so we could have an idea of what we would be looking at. Hah! We got to the ticket office at 9:30 a.m. and got home at 6 p.m. Even though we were there a whole day, we missed a lot. We were smart enough to take our own lunch, so we did probably sit on the high curb of one of the streets for 20 minutes, and we did occasionally sit on a stone to rest. But Pompeii is an entire city that had housed about 20,000 people. It is overwhelmingly large. Worse is that we ran into the usual Italian nonchalance. They prefer that you hire a guide (35 Euros per hour) or rent an audio guide. We canít keep up with guides and like to wander on our own. We hate audio guides. They tend to tell you more than you want to know and certainly slow you down. But it was a mistake not to get one here. There were no signs, no explanations even in Italian. The only indication of what you were seeing was a practically invisible black bar and the number on it corresponded to the audio guides and not to the map of the site you were given upon entry.

Almost everything that was found in the houses had been removed. It was really hard to tell which of the existing walls belonged to any one house. Our favorite building was the bakery. The authorities had left the stone grinding "machines" which were fascinating. They consist of two parts, the top one with a waist sitting on the base stone, with both parts perched on a round table. You insert poles in holes in the top stone and use them as levers to turn it. Grain is placed in the hollow top of the upper stone and that slowly feeds down as the grinding proceeds. The flour falls out on the table. (Picture 1 shows the flour grinders found in the ruins of Pompeii.) We did see hundreds of buildings, but never were able to view the water system. We had entered at the main entrance, and discovered too late that if we had gone in a different entrance, we would have been able to see more of the famous houses!

Even so, it was an amazing experience. An entire city two thousand years old is spread out before you. The book did give us a lot of information but Pompeii requires a modern person to understand a highly organized, beautifully engineered city that had different sensibilities. It was difficult. There was nothing in most houses, except for an occasional copy of a statue, a fresco or a mosaic. Despite the bareness, it was overwhelming. We did know from our book that most of the things they found at the site are now at the National Archeological Museum in Naples. That would be on our agenda on Day Three.

We had already decided on Day Two. We would take the train to Sorrento, and then a bus that takes you to Positano and Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast. We know that the roads are narrow, clinging to the edge of hills and very convolutedólots of hairpin turns, so tight that a car and a bus cannot negotiate them at the same time. That would not be a fun day in an RV! Were we glad that we opted for the bus! That road was as bad as the Connecticut couple we met at the Pompeii Ruins said it was. (They had noticed Ronís UCONN hat and asked where we live!)

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