Our next stop on our Eastern Mediterranean adventure is a triple threat: Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri. It was always hard to choose which excursion to go on, but this outing was particularly difficult. You had the option to skip Pompeii altogether, spending the full day in Sorrento and Capri. Alternatively you could see both the archaeological site and museum of Pompeii, missing out on Capri. My Cruisin’ Ladies and I decided to do the taster of all three places which included most things but didn’t include the archaeological museum at Pompeii.
Having studied Pompeii during some of my Classics archaeology courses, it was more than a little exciting to get to see it in person. It was a town known for its extreme wealth, its strong Etruscan influence, its forward and free spirited thinking and its quick and inevitable demise from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. It suffered along with other well known communities such as Herculaneum.
Now, from what I studied, at what time the eruption took place is still very much a hot archaeological debate. There are scholars who favour a middle of the night event, meaning most of the citizens would have been tucked in bed and unable to pack their things quick enough to escape. There are also those who feel that it could have happened in the middle of the day, adding contributing factors such as noxious gasses released into the air would have made it so the people were immobile or killed almost immediately. In any event of how the horror occurred, Pompeii was buried under more than 9 feet of ash and debris and remained hidden until the 1700s.
Pompeii has a wealth of written records describing details of the city. Obviously, during the eruption any of the wooden details would have been destroyed. Yet because of the various records, historical sources and images that were kept of the city, modern conservationist have worked to rebuild the city in the most accurate way possible (particularly with regard to the construction and design of any wooden features).
Walking through the city, you’ll see ornate marble columns, the marble steps of the amphitheatre and the 6-room mansion-style houses with central courtyards and mosaic floors. You’ll see their ornate bathhouses, filled with vivid painted frescoes that are still decipherable today. And you cannot miss the prostitution house, with a fresco painting above each room depicting the lover’s specialty.
And of course, Vesuvius.
Sadly, we didn’t get to go to the archaeological museum. They are meant to have some fantastic artifacts showing the wealth of the city. If given the chance again, I would definitely go back to see it. Still, the city itself is incredible.
After our tour, we had a demonstration of the carving of conch shell cameos and a nice look through their gift shop. They had some beautiful pieces, the shell floral ring being one of my favourites. Sadly, even the smallest pieces were still way out of my price range.
On the drive from Pompeii to Sorrento, we went along a beautiful cliff. Being on a tour, we were on a bus with panoramic windows to fully take in the view. Our time in Sorrento was brief. Really, it was more of a walk through and lunch. We dined at the only restaurant with a sea view (as most of the view is taken up by hotels) but unfortunately I wasn’t sat near a window! Still, as always, the food and wine were incredible and the Italians were very gracious to cater to my food sensitivities. After lunch we had a short walk through the city. I stopped for an espresso from a street vendor and bought a few ceramic souvenirs from shops along the way to the pier.
There are very few places more beautiful than Capri. You feel privileged from the boat-ride on the clear blue Mediterranean water to the tiny luxurious island. Known for its elegant leather sandals and the celebrity vacationers, its easy to see why the island has such hype.
Everything in Capri is glamourous. The architecture, the shops, the restaurants- nothing is left for wanting. It’s easy to see how one could spend a year’s salary on this little island. Its main form of income is certainly tourism, and there is a gondola-type shuttle that runs every hour to the top and bottom of the island for those who don’t live here, but looking at all of the little houses dotted in the hills, I wonder what it would be like to live in such an exquisite place.
One of the best parts of the island is their parfumerie shop Carthusia with history dating back to a monastery in 1380, later evolving into a shop in the 1940s. They create bespoke hand-produced fragrances and even offer the option of making individual fragrances by request.
Possibly the greatest must-do of Capri would be to tour the gardens which take you up to a cliff’s edge, allowing you to see the clear blue water of the lagoon below and stunning cliffside of the island. Its beauty is hard to explain, so hopefully each picture included is worth 1000 words!