On our way from Rome to Pompei, we drove through some beautiful coastal roads, we found this very reminiscent of the south of France with miles of golden beaches, bluer than blue sea and stunning surroundings.
|Time for a break|
We decided to break the drive into a couple of days and managed to find a perfect spot to stop for the night in ‘Sperlonga’.
We spent the day on the beach relaxing after the ‘full on’ day of Rome. The weather was hot and the sea warm (for the kids anyway), but after so long Alf decided he needed to spend more time in the van on the lap-top, just for a change.
Tom decided he wanted to climb the rocks and walk through some woods to an old ruin, so off we went.
Tom being Tom wasn’t happy with getting close to the ruin but wanted to climb up the far too high rocks, through the far too prickly woods and round the far too dangerous cliff edge. After a few hours of hiking in sandals and risking life and limb to the rocks below us, we found a beautiful private cove and decided to have a minute. Tom kept pushing to go further though and after another hour or so on the assault course, we finally got to the ruin, but, to our disappointment, it was gated off. Although Tom wanted to climb over this, we decided enough was enough and made our way back, just in time for dinner.
|Keep going Dad|
|Just a little further|
|Not far now Dad|
|Lets have a minute|
|With the ruin in the background, this was as close as we could get|
We were due to make the rest of the journey to Pompeii the next day, but after speaking to my Dad he informed me my Aunty Irene and Uncle John were in the area on holiday, how bizarre. So we did a slight detour and had a couple of days in ‘Cassino’ where they were. This turned out to be another one of those pleasant unexpected surprises.
The area has its own story about a battle in WW2 which destroyed their Abbey on the hill. The Italian government has funded a full restoration of the Abbey, and they have done an amazing job. We have seen a few grand churches and Abbeys on our travels now, but we feel this one is the most magnificent, with mosaic walls like none we have seen before.
|Inside Cassino Abbey|
After the Abbey we all had lunch in the town and made our separate ways, I never realised it, but my aunty Irene has Italian blood in her family and is on a bit of a family tree quest, looking for a relative’s local farm.
I hope you did find the farm Irene, and thanks to you both for lunch. We had a lovely day.
|Next stop, Pompeii|
The following day we made it to Pompeii, the campsite was right outside the entrance to the ancient ruins, and what was going to be a quick look around the area turned into a full on exploration of the city. And what a city. I’m not one for ever wanting to have lived at a different time on earth (apart from the 60s that is, who could pass up ‘free love’ and LSD?) but it was easy to imagine a fine life in Pompeii in its heyday, obviously before that little event in 79 AD involving a small volcano called Vesuvius.
By the time we finished walking around, the sun was just going down, casting long shadows from the ruins and turning the light blue and purple, it had a great feel to the place, if not a little haunting.
Where could we possibly go the next day to top Pompeii? The volcano that destroyed it of course.
I know a little lad who has been waiting to see this for the last six months and was very excited about going up an actual volcano. Vesuvius was a forty minute drive out of Pompeii, through the most deprived; run down villages we have seen so far. The driving was very reminiscent of Morocco in many ways with whole families on scooters with no helmets and traffic lights having no authority.
Unbelievably the roads got worse, the potholes were large enough to get lost in and the driving from others on the roads felt like we were banger racing. We even saw people emptying buckets of water (or at last I hope it was water) from first floor balconies onto the street below. It was like stepping back into the Victorian age.
Thankfully there was a road which took us most of the way up the volcano, and although it was a very steep drive with lots more hair pins, the van did us proud.
|The path to the crater|
Once we got as far as we could go, we were then on foot all the way to the crater. There was a path of sorts which made it easy to walk on, and about 40 minutes later we were there, looking into the crater of the volcano.
Although there was no boiling lava (we had prepared Tom for this) we did have gasses coming out of the sides; it was a very special moment for one little boy, and apparently a tick off the bucket list for Alfie! Seriously, who has a bucket list at twelve?
|Back a bit.......just a little bit more|
After much imaginative story telling about how it must have been at the time of the eruption we made our way back down. The roads were so steep coming back that the new brake pads started smoking!! After a short break to let them cool down, and a bit of Googling to see how serious it was, we slowly made our way back to our next destination – Herculaneum - through the madness of the Italian roads.
We had prepared the boys with a little chat prior to visiting Herculaneum. We weren’t really sure what to expect in terms of size but knew that the boys had quickly become bored in Pompeii, especially once they realised there weren’t any actual dead bodies to be seen. Sometimes on this trip it feels like we have been dragging them around to see things that we want to see and Italy has been a bit unbalanced in that respect, but Herculaneum was the last item to tick off our list and it didn’t seem unreasonable to ask them to behave for a few hours!
Although they were clearly relieved to see that Herculaneum is smaller than Pompeii, and thrilled that one of the first things to see was a series of arches containing several hundred skeletons, boredom set in within fifteen minutes, shortly accompanied by inappropriate games of ‘it’ and much climbing over historical artefacts.
|I might have one of these at home in the living room|
|A rare moment of stillness|
|Dad, would Wolverine have survived?|
We managed to stretch our visit out to about three hours, and there were some interesting things to see, but the feel of the place was much neglected. In Pompeii, there had been stewards dotted around the site to make sure visitors stayed where they were meant to and didn’t touch anything they weren’t supposed to. Herculaneum had no stewards. There was graffiti over some of the ancient paintings and the original mosaics were just left unprotected for everyone to walk over which felt very wrong. Also, unlike Pompeii which is large and set apart from its modern city counterpart, Herculaneum was almost sunk in a bowl within the ‘new’ city and the new city resembled Beiruit.
Another thing we found curious was that the price to visit the ancient cities was a paltry €22 for the four of us (about £15) but for the privilege of walking up Vesuvius, which is after all a mountain and needs no special looking after or restoration, we were charged €28, plus €5 to park. Crazy.
|Icecreams for those who behaved ....... kind of.|