A Travellerspoint blog

Frozen in Time

Of heat, trains and the tragedy of Pompeii

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Woke ready for a long day. We'd planned for a visit to Pompeii (in fact Alison had been planning from the age of 13) and with some insight from Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) we decided to take the train down from Rome to Naples then a local train (not covered by our Eurorail pass) to Pompeii.

It started well, got on the train at the Termini in Rome. Excellent ride, fast, comfortable and smooth. NZ really should take a lesson in creating a good train service. The trip was just over an hour, then we arrived in Napoli (Naples). Now for the fun, we had 20 minutes to find the ticket place, get tickets, then find and board the local train to Pompeii Scavi (there's two stops in Pompeii, Scavi is right by the ruins).

Well we arrived nice and refreshed in Napoli, the ticket place was right in front us so all would be well <I think the inserting of a Tui add would be appropriate here>....Yeah Right.

So, as you do in Italy, we stood in the queue. Waited nicely and got to the counter, "Parla inglese?"..yes they spoke english. Could we get two tickets to Pompeii Scavi please?.....No. Typical, we were in the wrong ticket area. We needed to go downstairs for the local tickets. Down we went joining another queue, with no air con here and it seemed a lot less organization. However, the end result was successful. Two tickets purchased to Pompeii Scavi.

Then through the gates (similar to many metros I assume) and down to the trains.....ick So these local trains weren't quit as nice as the intercity ones we'd been using. While waiting, we established, with a number of other lost looking tourists that Pompeii is called Sorrento in Italy. That there are two stops, the first - Scavi - was right next to the ruins, the second was across town.

Then our train turned up, shit this will be fun, to many people, not enough doors and it would appear space would be at a premium. Correct, we shot down do another set of doors, then another, before we got on. Cramped and hot would be an understatement for this ride. Worse we were at the front of our carriage, so didn't get the value of the wind through the window. Off we went, after about 14 stops we arrived. Quickly past the street hawkers and int Pompeii Ruins...to join a queue. This one didn't last to long though, thankfully. We had expected a map with our tickets, but no, that we had to get from the information booth. It was simple to find, though the lady serving us did not look happy being disturbed. I mean it wasn't as if it was at the end of the day, it had just opened. Worse, at the start of the day, they were out of English maps; so we got a small map that was very indicative only and seemed really only to focus on where the exits were. Later we found out (yup, I know, should have thought of it) that we could have got a map for a few euros in the bookshop.

Well enter we did.

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It was great. Very hot on the day, if you go there, take good walking shoes, water and sun screen. It's worth it (though, we had been told there is no Toilet inside, there is now and a small coffee/tourist shop) as looking at a few smart people wearing high heals, were we glad to look like tourists.

It's amazing how this place was caught, just frozen in time from an eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (which we didn't see, but can be got to on the same train).

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I'll get more pictures up later, but that is a dog, caught in the eruption.

We spent about 5 hours in Pompeii and still didn't see everything (though a map may have solved that). Missing the brothel was really frustrating !! (actually, apparently it's really good).

Alison did manage to grab some additional hand luggage though.

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Seems it never set off the alarms either ;-)

The day then was about getting home. We weren't looking forward to a similar train as the one that took us there, but... lucky we got a far better unit. It wasn't that crowded and we got back to Napoli to get our Intercity train in time for our return to Rome.

Posted by Gripnostril 11:39 Archived in Italy Tagged trains pompeii Comments (0)

So where's the wifi?

It's meant to be here

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Been off line for the last few days. Our apartment in Venice was meant to have WiFi, but despir having username and password nothing worked.

Even Alison got frustrated with the lack of connection !

As for mobile connectivity, I think with my background, I'll devote a whole section to Telco's (some read section, others will be happy to know it's more of an ecpectef rant).

Posted by Gripnostril 07:19 Archived in Italy Tagged wifi Comments (0)

Humbleness & Piety

The person vs the Religion

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Day two in Rome, ok for the anal amongst you day 2.5. Early start, so we shot down to the cafe for a coffee and breakfast.....hmmmmm bad plan. At least in our part of Rome, early for coffee appears to be 8am, bugga.

Ok, muesli bar, a banana and a glass of water it was, then a short wander down the road to the Colosseum taxi stand. Thankfully a taxi driver was there, he'd obviously found a cafe that was ipen. So off to the Vatican it was.

We had pre-booked, based on a suggestion from a friend from NZ who had recently been, tickets. We were booked on a 3 hour guided tour through the museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter' Basilica. In hindsight (as traditionally we're not big on guided tours) it was well worth it.

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Not known for my deeply religious views, I still have to say the art and architecture of the Vatican is fantastic. Also a lot of the history we got form Sarah, our guide, was really interesting, particularly that relating to Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling....incredible. Definitely worth the visit.

What did hit us was the opulence and extravagance of various Popes over time trying to be the 'greater' figure. The money and pride involved seems to fly in the face of the basic principles taught be Christianity. But, perhaps only 2 peoples opinion from our visit.

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Will need to add some photo's later as I'm having technical issues with the phone. (I would rant some more about some of these issues, but suspect most readers will just fall asleep).

After the three hours there, we wandered slowly (hell its been 30 degrees or more most days and Alison thinks she'll melt if we shoot along at a fast pass in that heat) along the river, making our way to the Pantheon. It's an amazing place, with free entry. A great domed church, large more in aspect and height than perhaps length or width. Again, well worth a visit.

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After that, a 4-5 km walk got us home, just in time for a cold beer, definitely well deserved. As with most days in Rome (and for most Italians, dinner is later, 8 pm +) we had a meal later that evening in one of the local restaurants. We really enjoyed both the food and the energy and sense of community in the area during the evening meals. Though not so enjoyable was the number of smokers also eating, somethings Italy could learn from NZ when it comes to dining.

Well the day was done, tomorrow off to Pompeii.

Posted by Gripnostril 13:51 Archived in Italy Tagged italy vatican pantheon Comments (0)

So we're here now what ?

Enjoy Rome if you can get over the jet lag

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Will combine a couple of days here, both to catch up on myself and help u miss out on the basics of getting acquainted with our accommodation at the same time as we struggled with jetlag kicking in. Must say though I am pleaded how I think I've acclimatised to time, well at least compared to Alison. She' getting there but taking a longer route.

Well once we got to the apartment, dropped bags and went out to check our local area. It's great, 3 restaurants within sight and just down the road a small thing called The Colosseum...magnificent. But greater priorities were at hand and while history was at our doorstep there was beer and Italian Pizza to be had ;-) Fabulous lunch and with the heat the larger wasn't wasted.

After that the rest of the day was fairly boring. Covering the necessities of life, finding washing liquid etc. We checked out the Colosseum and the queue, deciding that getting there nice and early for opening the next day would be a good idea. In short the queue was insane.

That night was an early tea (early in Italian terms) around 6:30pm. We were shot, jetlag was kicking in big time so a bite and off to bed desperately trying to get time synched. It defiantly helped.

So we awoke to our first full day in Rome..awesome. We shout out about 8 am (later than expected, so sleep had been good) for breakfast at one of the close restaurants, coffee (hell they even had options like decaffeinated cappuccino - WTF, at least Alison would be happy) and croissant. From there, after the normal morning ablutions which I won't bore you with, we headed of to the Colosseum. Though we were running later than we wanted (target was 8am) we got there at 9:15am. The queue wasn't to long. We were however a bit worried that it was the right queue as the day before we had seen a sign saying that 8:30 am was when things got underway. The end result was that we entered at 10:30 am. We're still not sure if that wad normal entry time or if the planned general strike on the following day was causing a problem .

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The queue experience was interesting. It was massive be the time we entered. We were lucky as all around us people weren't sure what was going on and there was no information about (that was put up only when things opened). We got speaking to a German woman who's Italian husband went and found out the problem , apparently the general strike that was going to occur in Italy the next day (which we didn't notice, apparently only really affected buses) was starting today at the Colosseum....sigh.

Well once entered we had full access to the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatino. Overall it took us about 5 hours to get around it all. Even then we could have spent longer if it wasn't so hot and someone would wheel us about or at least provide some fresh new feet.

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In short it was excellent. The only negative was the number of people. It would be nice to be in the Colosseum alone with it's history and to feel it's presence. Yeah I know, ideal world stuff where tourists and historical sites don't mix.

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We'll put up some photos later, but especially in the Colosseum and the Forum it's amazing the architecture and beauty of what these place must have looked like. Despite some of the roles they played in the regular killing of people, to time, well at least compared to Alison.

We were buggered by the end of that, as we were to learn, it was hot (nice dry heat) and good walking shoes were needed ! So nothing but to shoot back to the cafe's and get a cold beer !. Man, it tasted good.

Posted by Gripnostril 10:56 Archived in Italy Tagged jetlag Comments (0)

When in Rome !

Some of the nuances of Rome

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Some of the interesting nuances we have found in Rome to date, compared to New Zealand have been:

  • Smoking - It seems the negatives of nicotine have been published here. Expect to eat a meal within 10 feet of someone lighting up. Even the withering glare of my wife in the back of the smokers head didn't stop it.
  • Crowds and queues: Perhaps more symptomatic of Rome as a tourist centre, but shit there are crowds and the bigger the crowd the longer the queue. If you can buy tickets ahead.
  • Crossings: There ara a number of options with Zebra crossings, no controlling lights, automated lights that say when to cross and manual lights that you press the button on to start the process of the crossing lights: It would appear in all cases they are at best a general indication that it maybe (only maybe) safe to cross. You regularly see the green light to cross on as the vehicles get a green light to go. I wonder if it's just a targeting exercise. However despite being the total opposite of the NZ PC (OSH will see this I'm sure) approach, it seems that everyone survives.
  • Heat: We're here in early September (autumn) and it's 28-32 degrees. A bit like Hawkes Bay (or do I mean the fabulous Hawkes Bay) hot but dry. We've had very little humidity. I love it, Alison's not so sure, she thinks she maybe melting.
  • Taxi's: Interesting, hard to wave down and taxi stands never seem to be as common as expected. But we ordered a couple by phone and they were fine. It just helps most of the time if you keep your eyes shut. Driving in Rome is more an art than a
  • Eating times and serving sizes: It's great and I think perhaps symptomatic of the temperature. But we've very light lunches. Evening meals seem to be starting from 8pm or later. We at earlier (about 7) as need to crash, still overcoming jetlag. But I could get used to this. Meal sizes aren't massive helpings either. They're good sized and allows space for the other enjoyable food options. I really am enjoying the Antipasti variety.
  • Narrow cobble-stoned streets: You've seen my comment on the cars. Well this is probably the reason. It's amazing (or is that terrifying) what can fit down some streets. And those with prams, I'm sorry.
  • Apparently they don't eat chicken: Haven't seen this on a menu yet ?
  • Street stalls and sellers: There is heaps. They'll be selling anything and everything. It's interesting to watch the illegal ones avoiding the cops.

Posted by Gripnostril 08:46 Archived in Italy Tagged nuance Comments (0)

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