Anchoring off Sorrento and tendering into this once Greek city offered our group bonus points in the landscape category. Originally the plan called for berthing in Naples followed by a coach tour of the ancient resort city for Roman one percenters, but the change, a result of delayed harbor dredging, meant we enjoyed views of Vesuvius, the Isle of Capri and Naples Bay. Our coach driver zigzagged up the Amalfi Drive to avoid heavy rush hour traffic giving us a view of place and neighborhoods we might have missed at another hour.
The goal of the day was a visit to the city where over 11,000 men, women, and children lost their lives in 79 AD. A nearby towering volcano known as Vesuvius erupted and sent sulfur fumes, huge boulders, and super-heated air into the city and surrounding settlements. The lucky ones suffocated in their homes, while the super-heated air incinerated others trying to flee struggling to reach the safety of the sea. The intense temperature was hot enough to vaporize all organic manner and cover the area with meters deep ash. Casts of remains, pottery, and marble remained hidden under the deep layer until rediscovered first by treasure hunters and later by archeologists. What remains today resembles an abandoned brick warehouse district.
A closer look and input from our knowledgeable and loquacious guide revealed the skeletons of former shops, residences, and temples as well as an amphitheater, gymnasium, and port facilities. Most floors were dirt or stone, walls rough brick occasionally with splashes of color from prior frescos. The rough condition resulted from archivists moved most of the original mosaics and frescos to the Archeology Museum in Naples, which has preserved a wealth of art and other remnants of the village.
Fortunately for the first timers, the guide led us to an area open three months ago where substantial portions of the original mosaic floors, the wall frescos, the shrine niches, remnants of the kitchen and water supply. Multiple bedrooms surrounded the center atrium. In addition, adjacent exhibits showed pottery shards and pots. A case displayed poignant casts of three individuals encased in volcanic ash. The three figures included two adults and a small child revealing their size and manner of their death those centuries ago. Seeing the bodies and their home made the tragedy more real to us all.
We made a brief pizza stop to sample the fruit drinks of the area and try Margherita pizza named after Queen Margherita ofSavoy and featuring the colors of the Italian flag in tomato, mozzarella cheese, wheat crust and virgin olive oil. Boarding the bus, we headed for a coach tour of Naples, passing through the Unesco Heritage site in the historical district. Our guide pointed out notable buildings including the Royal Palace, the Teatro di San Carlo, one of the oldest opera houses in the world, and the church of San Francesco di Paola. We learned the San Pietro a Majella, a music conservatory, which houses original scores of many great composers. Enrico Caruso and the tarantella are natives of Naples.
The hour was late and the traffic heavy when our busload of weary travelers clambered up the gangplank, shed and surrendered anything metal to security, and returned to our staterooms to clean up for dinner.