Rather than translate the post title, I’ll just let you know that in Australia we have the same phrase, ‘doing SFA’, though it does sound a little more sophisticated in Italian. Just like ‘happy hour’ is referred to as ‘Aperitivo’ it all means “sitting around doing nothing” which is the favourite summer pastime of both countries, and as if we needed any encouragement, Deb has acquired a taste for Prosecco and for me, Campari.
It was hard leaving the beautiful Tuscany landscape but before we descended onto the Lazio plains we managed to visit a few more impossibly balanced and ridiculously beautiful medieval hilltop villages
After the many quaint villages we had toured thus far I was a little scared visiting a large city like Rome and thought it was going to be a S*%T-fight, but amazingly quite the opposite was true. We found a pleasant & secure ‘sosta’ (camping area) 2.5 km from the Colosseum and with a bus-stop out the front we were in Central Rome within minutes.
Fun Fact: Not only did Jews build the Pyramids but they financed the Colosseum. I was curious when I saw the Menorah among the plaster work on the inside of Titus’s Arch in the Roman Forum and a little Googling later revealed it was funded by the spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Siege of Jerusalem.
After being thrown out of the Vatican (long story) it was time to head south, but before reaching the Bay of Naples we thought we would spend one night in the quiet, cool hills. Dusk found us at a small Terme (thermal bath) which had a grassed area just for motorhomes with power & water. As we were the only ones there and it was nearly dark we decided to hang out the wet washing, but just as we finished 2 more campers turned up.
They were 2 families travelling together who spoke no English but through much gesticulation and charades we all soon became good friends. While they were setting up they brought over 2 bottles of wine and while we were eating our dinner they kept bringing over food to try. After dinner we joined them and brought them some ‘different’ wine and some Aussie souvenirs we carry for just such an occasion.
One family had 2 boys 18 & 12. The 18yo (Andrea) was quiet and spoke a little english if we were stuck but it wasn’t really needed as the 12 yo (Francesco) pulled out a piano accordion and proceeded to (professionally) play a variety of Italian folk music that had all of us singing, clapping and dancing for the rest of the night. During breaks in the music 72 yo Giovanni (father of the other family) entertained us with a variety of ‘shtick’, gags & tricks that immediately reminded me of my dear Uncle Reg.
We were meant to leave the next morning but they insisted we spend the day with them in the Termi and then a repeat performance of festivities the next night. By the time we actually did leave 2 days later there was lots of hugging, kissing and invitations to come and visit when we reach their town.
Giovanni had given us some tips on where to stay in the Naples region along with warnings of the many pickpockets & thieves that work the city and it’s trains. This warning was to be repeated by many people we came into contact with in the next few days, so we were very happy to find a secure campsite in the port city of Pozzuoli adjacent to Naples.
The 3 main islands in the region in descending order of size are Capri, Ischia & tiny Procida. After much research we decided to overlook the crowded, expensive & kitschy Capri in favour of the under-rated Procida.
Arriving in the quaint town we made our way up to the high point for some magnificent views in all directions before taking lunch in the marina on the far side of the island followed by a relaxing swim on one of the beautiful beaches.
We’ve all had it happen. With a well-planned day the forces of the universe mis-align and despite your efforts everything goes wrong. You know you should just turn around and stay home but something keeps you fighting against the tide and it just goes downhill from there…..this was Naples! Now I’m sure on the right day a good time can be had there but this was not the day.
We woke late, missed the train turning a 30 minute ride into a 2.5 hour journey. Then emerging into Piazza Garibaldi from the central station we faced a gauntlet of stalls purveying a variety of fake products & ‘schmonzas’. The stall-holders and the crowds appeared to consist mainly of ‘immigrati’. While walking briskly through the crowd with my hands protecting my pockets I ensured Deb was in front as we were both wearing backpacks but hers was easily more accessible.
Nearly through Deb turned to look at me and screamed “Michael!”. I turned & found an African gentleman who had obviously mistaken my backpack for his own as he had undone the zipper and had his hand was inside. Obviously he realised his ‘mistake’ turned and walked briskly away. I checked to find nothing was missing and then we both transferred our backpacks to the front and continued to our 1st attraction.
Now way past lunch-time we ignored the many touristy trattorias near the main squares and found ourselves in dirty, dingy back streets of what appeared to be a slum but by the end of the day it seems most of Naples was like this. Just before the museum we were looking for, we found this little hole-in-the-wall local eatery which seemed safe and here we enjoyed a fantastic pasta lunch for way too little money.
Of the 4 attractions I had planned the 1st – a gallery was closed, the 2nd – a church was nice (not thrilling), the 3rd – a church we could not find and the 4th – a museum was open but the content sucked. As previously stated, aside from a great lunch our Naples experience was very sad and we couldn’t wait to clear the area.
Glad to have the last of our big city visits behind us, our next camp spot was at historic Pompeii. Not as famous or as large as the commercial city of Pompeii, we first visited the ruins of Heraculaneum, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius a 30 minute train ride away. Here, together with another Aussie couple we met at the entrance, we hired an english-speaking tour guide too show us around. Lucciano was very animated and made our visit entertaining.
Aside from size, Lucciano explained the main difference between the 2 sites (Heraculaneum & Pompeii) was the fact that Heraculaneum was situated on a river and so the eruption on that fateful day in August 79 AD caused the village to be coated in mud before being covered with hot ash & lava like Pompeii. This has resulted in some very unique findings peculiar to each site.
In Heraculaneum the frescoes & mosaics are in much better condition and quite well preserved.
At this site they found human remains while at Pompeii the intense heat destroyed even the bones.
Wanting a break from ruins before visiting Pompeii we took a train to Sorrento and then a bus along the coast through Positano to Amalfi.
From Amalfi we ascended by another bus to Ravello for spectacular views, lunch and strolling the many arty stores & ceramic shops.
Nice to see Deb is so confident now with her photography she can now assist others.
The bus rides along the Amalfi coast are crowded, nail-biting affairs with everyone jostling to score a prized window seat on the right side, so for something different & cooler we caught a ferry back to Sorrento
As I said above little, if any, human remains were found at Pompeii due to the intense heat. But what the early archaeologists did find were some mysteriously shaped holes in the rock that had covered the city.
In order to find out what they were they had the idea to fill the holes with plaster thus revealing the inhabitants as they were when they were covered by the ash and molten lava 2000 years ago.
Through these ‘castings’ they have been able to determine many things about that day’s eruption. One fact is that most of the victims were already dead due to suffocation from poisonous fumes before being covered.
Now onto Paestum and Calabria in SW Italy and if circumstances allow, Sicily.
Don’t forget you can click on any of the pictures for a full-screen slideshow of all images in the post.