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A trip in time: Pompeii

Hello, fellow travelers, we’re back with fresh reports from Italy, this time a short description of a day visit to the amazing ruins of Pompeii.

Taking into account the history of the place I will try to be a bit more serious, if you won’t mind.

Pompeii Scavi is easily reached from Naples by train, the Circumvesuviana, although you might want to keep your purse or backpack close while on the train.

The entrance ticket costs 13 euros and they are well spent money, the place being absolutely amazing. We were part of a group so the people in charge found us a guide that was quite good, but unfortunately I cannot really say how much the services of a guide cost but they are worth it, for sure.

Our guide made our visit to the ruins of Pompeii quite memorable with the things that he explained and the fun way he did it. That’s him in “Villa dei Misteri” telling us the story of the place.

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As you might know, Pompeii is an Italian city in the Bay of Naples not destroyed, as you might think, but preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

This strange method of  unintended but wonderful “preservation” is due to the approximately 6 meters of ash that covered and kept Pompeii  hidden and safe for over a thousand years.

The lucky archaeological event was not so lucky for most of the inhabitants of Pompeii who died either due to the high temperature that liquefied their brains ( 250°) or choked to death in the falling ash.

Their remains, preserved by the fallen ash were found by the archaeologists who discovered that the bodies were in fact gone after over a millennium but the shells of the buried people and objects, remained petrified. In an effort of preservation the archaeologists injected the empty shells recreating exact representations of the victims of the disaster.

One of them is a boy holding his nose while trying not to breathe in the deadly ash… CSI_5064

Huh, I told you this is a way to serious post, but enough with that.

Here’s a fun fact: in 1599 Pompeii was almost rediscovered. Actually, rediscovered and hastily reburied. Why so? Well because the Pompeiians had a very interesting and modern culture, one in which the phallus was an “apotropaion”, that is an intensively used good luck charm so its representations were quite widely spread and picturesque. Too much for the prudes that uncovered it so they hurried and reburied it for more open minded generations.

Oh, by the way, in Naples you will find lots of charms featuring what might seem like clusters of small, red peperoni. They are not actually peperoni, so if you buy them as souvenirs or gifts for your friends be ready to explain to them that they are actually fertility symbols.

Our visit to Pompeii started with the house of pleasure, the first thing a weary traveler ( sailor, mostly) stumbled upon when reaching Pompei. The house we visited was nicely decorated with frescoes and even had “the menu” on the walls, for the convenience of the customers that were not speaking Italian.

If you happen to visit Pompeii and that place make sure to look for the “Pompeiian sandwich”  in the menu,  it is the first representation of its kind uncovered. Unfortunately my photo of it is moved, because of laughter and also of the badly lit room.

You will, nonetheless, find it on most of the magnets and postcards sold in and around Pompeii.

In the well preserved site, with a well-documented guide, you can almost imagine Pompeii bustling with life, a hub for commerce but also of culture.

You look around and you can see the temples, the stores, the bakeries and fast food places, you can hear the rumbling of carts on the cobble streets and smell the freshly baked bread. CSI_5046

Above all, you can almost see the imposing form of Vesuvius, who, before the eruption reached almost 2500 meters, not the meager 1281 meters  he has now after blowing up and burying the area in ash and debris. ( They found a rock from the eruption in 79 AD in Albania, imagine that.)

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One of the most interesting sights in Pompeii is actually not in the city but some 400 meters outside the city walls, just passing through a very interesting, decorative cemetery, also speaking volumes about the rich, educated and beauty lovers Pompeiians.

Villa dei Misteri, extremely well preserved( walls, frescoes, ceiling), was a very rich citizen’s residence.

Among the ruins was discovered a wine press that cannot be visited, and a room with mysterious frescoes that are still leaving room for theories.

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Most of the scientists studying the frescoes agree that they seem to represent the initiation in the cult of Dionysus  ( the god of harvest, wine,  and other intoxicants and intoxicating rituals).

The main idea around the frescoes is that in order to become an upstanding citizen and be initiated you have to, first of all, get really, really intoxicated and have a chat with Dionysus.

This comes to show that things do not change so much over millennia since this is exactly what the young people nowadays do while in college, although they might cam it differently and the intoxicants have also changed. 😀

Now, my theory on the frescoes is quite different and it involves aliens. Why? Well because you can clearly see in one of the frescoes a kid taking a selfie with his IPad while his mother is at the hairdresser.  😀

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Now, dear readers, I can only hope that you know I was joking, at least about the Ipad part.

In conclusion I must say that I found the Pompeii site to be the most interesting I have ever visited, well worth the money, the time and the scorching heat. It is a true glimpse into history, one that rises a lot of questions, especially if we compare the glory of the days passed with the not so glorious  daily life the citizens of Naples, for example, seem to have.

But about my thoughts on this matter we can talk some other time, maybe when I’ll dare to write my opinion on Naples and its long faded glory.

That’s it for now. If you want to find out more about Naples and its surroundings you might want to check out my other article with a click right here.

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Italy and Darkclauds: it’s complicated

To love or to hate, these were the questions revolving in my mind whenever I thought of Italy. I had one mostly positive memory of Venice and  a not so pleasant experience of  the Umbria region and too many meetings with not so nice people and poor quality services.

To end the dilemma I once more bought tickets to Italy in order to make up my mind and give my verdict. They were a great deal since BlueAir flies directly from Bucharest to Naples and we found the tickets at just 75 euros.

Luckily for me and for Italy also, after the latest trip my decision is that Italy is a country to love, with its perfect places and its flaws also.

I chose a completely new part of Italy, the beginning of summer and jumped in a completely new experience along with some of my best friends.

This time the choice that made the trick was Naples and most importantly its surroundings, the amazing bay of Naples, Amalfi coast and the beautiful Capri.

We flew to Naples one Saturday morning (June 27) and our hosts for the weekend picked us up and took us to our first headquarters in Salerno, at Grand Hotel Salerno, by the beach.

The same afternoon we took a lovely cruise from Salerno to Amalfi, enjoying on the way the lovely views of the famous Amalfi coast, with lush forests, lemon orchards and idyllic houses perched on high cliffs.

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Leaving Salerno

From time to time, small fairytale towns appeared from between the rocks to our amazement. The sun was shining, white puffy clouds kept on rolling lazily over the blue skies  and I remembered how much I love the sea although I am a mountain girl at heart.

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Now do not get me wrong, I hate sunbathing ( and I consider it dangerous), and I’ll stand on a beach for more than an hour only of you tempt me with a really good book, but I love cruises, the sound and smell of the sea, the sense of freedom and tranquility you can only get with water all around you, even on a busy, noisy ferry during high season.

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Positano, I think

 

Amalfi, the very famous town was not a surprise, but was nonetheless nice, with its small twisted streets, shops and street terraces, its delicious ice-cream and bustling life.

The Amalfi cathedral was a lot nicer that we expected, and finding out that St Andrew’s remains are kept there was a very pleasant surprise.

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We tried to get lost on the small streets and explore hidden parts of Amalfi, but my perfect sense of direction prevented us from getting lost. 😀 Nonetheless, we found just the perfect place for a cute photoshoot. Too bad I forgot to instruct my photographer on the proper use of a camera and on the notion of focus.

  So this must be the best photo of myself during my Italian adventure, I hope you like it as much as I do. 😀

CSI_4758Soon our wandering was ended by our guides who reminded us we have a ferry to catch. We took the trip back in silence, a bit tired after a day that had started too early, quite far away.

  We took one long look at Amalfi and said our goodbyes for now.

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We enjoyed a quiet and not very spectacular sunset on the ferry thinking that Italy might not be that bad. Little did I know, the best was yet to come.

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To be continued….

P.S You might like to scroll through the rest of the photos of the day. If so, click bravely on the link below. Enjoy!

Italy, July 2015: Amalfi and Salerno

Sorrento

Among the hidden treasures of Italy, Sorrento is a name to remember. Little shaded streets full of life and color, an amazing bay and view of the sea, all you need for a perfect getaway.

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Snapshots of Italy

I just got back from an amazing 9 day trip through Italy visiting Naples, Salerno, Sorrento, Amalfi, Capri and many other breathtaking sights. My mind is full of ideas and most important, my SD cards are full of photos I need to share with you so stick around for a glimpse into an amazing holiday in Italy, tips and tricks, the beauty but also the harsh truth, Italy just as it is, so easy to love and so easy to hate.

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To be continued…..

The right way?

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Italy – the tourist unfriendly country

page Umbria

I have let the time settle before telling you the story of my short trip to Italy because I was pretty upset and disappointed during the trip and after it. Time has passed, but I still feel cheated somehow after having experienced so many types of frustration and disappointment in only 4 days. To get over it but also in order to properly inform you on what to expect while traveling to Italy I will start with the bad stuff:

Transport-wise, Italy is a nightmare for too many reasons: One, car rental companies deem necessary to close their business on Sundays. This means that a poor weekend traveler will be forced to return his rented car on Saturday and do whatever he wishes “per pedes” on Sunday.

While this is definitely good for people who work for car companies and who deserve their time off, as a tourist you are forced by the circumstances to limit you area of travel and this is not nice.

This is the reason why I have stayed in Perugia and got bored to death on the fourth day of my trip when beautiful Todi or Orvieto were so close by car.

If you propose taking a train instead you should know that the connections were poor, inadequate for a day trip. No busses, three hours long train trips one way, no cars to rent = lost time and a lot of frustration.

The parking spaces are terrible, with rules a normal tourist cannot possibly decipher without going to an Italian parking university. For instance, you can use a parking that has a one hour sign for precisely one hour, then you have to move your car to another place.

Imagine trying to visit a medieval city while returning to your car every hour to look for a new parking space nearby.

Oh, the bonus part is your rented car has a small cardboard sign that states the hour of your parking and it’s used by parking controllers to see if your hour is up and kindly write you a parking ticket of about 50 euros.

The fun part is that the people renting you the car do not mention the thing to you and you might just get a ticket for not using it properly.

Concerning hotel and restaurant services, things do not get a lot nicer. In 5 days and passing through 4 different hotels I have only met two nice persons.

The nicest of all was the owner of a small countryside house in Castiglion Fiorentino, a place I recommend with all my heart because it was the only impeccable place, with good service, friendly and respectful people.

This is the place and if you happen to visit Umbria you can book the house for a couple of days as it is a great point for photography and exploring beautiful Umbria: Agriturismo le Maceie

In the other hotels the staff was arrogant, superior and very unfriendly. They will not hesitate to pretend not to understand English in order to refuse helping you in finding a cab or another useful information you might desperately need.

Prices are quite high as compared to the services they offer, so you must really look for good deals in order not to pay too much for poor quality services. Checking out reviews on Tripadvisor is a way to avoid bad deals. Except for the lovely place Agriturismo le Maceie, the hotels in Perugia (two) and the hotel in Rimini were terrible.

Restaurants are great, with good food and they are mostly cozy, elegant places. Italian pizza is the best, for sure, and lasagna and pastas are a must eat. That of course, if you’ll get hungry in their food serving intervals.

Do not get the crazy idea that you can enter a restaurant and ask for food at 13:00 since they serve lunch only after 14:30.

Dinner is served only after 19:30 and if you happen to get hungry around 18:00 you’ll have to be patient and enjoy a beer or more before being allowed to eat.

As for drinks, you should know that a short espresso means a drop of coffee and a long espresso consists of two drops of coffee. If, like me, you prefer real life sized coffee you should ask for an “Americano”.

Besides these unpleasant aspects Italy is lovely and worth visiting, just that you have to take the bad parts into consideration in order not to have too high hopes, so easily broken by the harsh reality of a country that seem not to care for tourism.

If I think about it, they make more money from parking and speeding tickets given to tourists than from tourism itself so maybe that’s why they care so little about tourist satisfaction.

You might think I’m joking, but you should know that a friend of mine spent last year around 500€ on a holiday in Italy and later on received various speeding and parking tickets worth over 600€, so…beware.

My next post will focus on the bright side, the things to see and do in Umbria, Rimini, Ancona and the lovely tiny Republic of San Marino.

Damn it Italy, you are not a country so easy to love, despite your great landscapes, architecture and history…

For more photos check out my picasa album, one click away:

Umbrian adventure – April 2014

 

 

Bliss

A moment of sunshine and beauty after a couple of days of rain in picturesque Umbria region, Italy. Perugia is a small, lovely city and the region around it looks like a postcard, even through the fine curtain of spring rain. After the rain, the clouds put on a show for us. I felt so happy to be there and all the sadness caused by the earlier weather was gone in one second. These are the type of moments worth waiting for.

Perugia

 

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