Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Our Lifestyle Adventures: Mixing History with Romance

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Mixing History with Romance

Mt. Vesuvius from the coastal road from Sorrento, Italy
Captivating Sorrento
From Dubai, we flew to Rome on an A380 Emirates flight. They had a side airshow of how the jumbo plane landed and taxied down the runway. It was fascinating to watch. Then we waited for Bill’s daughter Suzanne, husband Dean, and children Devin and Cassie, who had been in the city for two days and were at the Vatican finishing their tour.  While waiting, Bill, and I walked the streets and found a gelateria where I relished my first of many gelatos. This one was caffe e cioccolato.

As soon as they arrived, we got on the Avis  mini-van they rented and drove to Sorrento at the Bay of Naples. Suzanne and her husband Dean had spent a romantic time there seventeen years ago, with two other couples before they had kids. We got to Tasso Suites at 9:30 pm for our overnight stay. At the ground floor was a ristorante e pizzeria where we had a quick celebration of Devin’s 16th birthday. Bill and I split a large plate of lasagna. Everyone shared good crusty Italian bread and some vino. And Devin got to blow a candle off his courtesy birthday mini-cake.

In the morning, Bill and Suzanne brought pastries, cheese, prosciutto, and fruits for breakfast. Then we all walked to the town piazza bursting with orange trees, then meandered to the promontory overlooking the coastal city for photo-ops. I understand such breathtaking scenes are all along the Sorrento peninsula up to the Amalfi coast.  I could see and feel how romantic the place still is. From there we found the winding steps down  to the beach where we marveled at the fish. But soon, we  found scarves, magnets and tank tops to buy.  On the way back to town, another ristorante e pizzeria beckoned with their special for the day: spaghetti and meatballs! Suzanne even ordered fresh anchovies drenched in buttery herbed lemon sauce. I love Italian food!!!

lemons oozing out of lemon farms
Mt. Vesuvius from the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter
Then we all hopped into the mini-van to go to the city of Pompeii, only some thirty minutes away.  There I found a world so mesmerizing, intriguing, and incredulous. The city was mostly destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. At the time, the town population was about 11,000. I couldn’t believe the advanced state of the civilization carefully unearthed from the ruins. From hollow places, they were even able to make composite reproductions of bodies of people and animals who instantly died in the avalanche of hot lava. The destruction was complete but, fortunately, left behind a detailed view of life during the time of Pax Romana.

colorful murals and somber bodies
Pompeii grew from 700 BC and was dominated by Rome around 400 BC. The city had a complete water system that fed the fountains, baths, and homes. The city had an amphitheater,  a bath house, fast food stores, a large Forum with a Temple to Jupiter, drinking fountains, decorative fountains, courtyards, fancy homes,  etc. They even had a brothel. In its heyday, the water reached up to the city walls. It was a bustling port at the time. Many beautiful frescoes, statues, and mosaics remain. And Mt. Vesuvius looms over the ruins, just as it did the town eons ago. 

illustrations of different ways at the brothel
Bill, filling up at the drinking fountain
Pompeii started earlier than Teotihuacan, the pre-Columbian city in Mexico established at around 100 BC. Teotihuacan, however, thrived until  around 550 AD, and its population grew to a high of approximately 125,000 and became  one of six largest in the world at the time. They are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites and each is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy or Mexico. Had Pompeii not been buried under a volcanic eruption, it would have grown into a big city, too. Pompeii’s ruins show more of everyday life while Teotihuacan displays the grandeur of the ceremonial places.

Pompeii was a port and the water reached up to here,
many miles inland now
The site closed at 5 pm. After some pizza, we were off to the town of Soriano Nel Cimino. For a week, we would use it as our base for exploring Rome, Florence, and other nearby sights once more to discover how history mixes with romance in Italy. Maybe art and religion, too.

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