The eruption of Mt. Etna made CNN World News last evening – I hope you were able to catch it – quite a spectacle!
When we go on tour, Cheryl and I have very distinctive roles. She’s the photographer, and it’s my job to talk with the tour guide about the area, gather facts, take notes & write the narration. I probably drive the tour guides nutty, but we didn’t come here to just drive around – I want to know a little about the history of the region, and hopefully, you do as well! Naples is the largest city in southern Italy & the capital of the Campania Region. It’s located just halfway between the Vesuvius volcano and another volcanic area, the Campi Flegrei. Mount Vesuvius is famous for its eruption in 79 AD burying Pompeii in ash and destroying several other towns in the vicinity. We drove through Pompeii and directly past the area where thousands of people were/are buried in a lava flow, not discovered until just recently (1970’s). It’s a rather somber site, and a true testimony to the brute strength of Mother Nature. The volcano remains silent today, but should there be another eruption, the loss of life will be significantly higher. Strangely, and even the tour guide mentioned this – they’ve built a hospital at the base of this volcano…and obviously, when the volcano blows, it’ll be one of the first structures destroyed. Go figure! Inhabitants of the Greek colony of Cuma, around the 8th century BC, founded the city just a few miles from the more ancient town of Partenope. For this reason, it was named Neapolis (from Greek, meaning New City). Its buildings, museums and even the language spoken by natives bear traces of all periods of its history, from its Greek birth, until present day. The weather was absolutely miserable – a very cold, driving rain which lasted all day. We were out for 8 hours here, and despite the weather, we went all the way down to the fabulously scenic Sorrentine peninsula. The town itself is rich in typical local produce, interesting sites of cultural interest, and fashionable shops. It’s known as the vertical city because as you’ll see from photos, all of the homes are built into stone walls & atop cliffs – there’s only one narrow, winding road going through the community – there are NO roads to the residents…everyone must park on the roadway & climb to their homes! There are even mechanisms on the roadway where residents can load their groceries and using a pulley system, hoist their food up to their homes! The views are breathtaking (even in the rain) but despite the beauty & serenity here, we would never be able to live the lifestyle. We stopped at another 5-star resort today for lunch – the cruise line truly goes out of their way to insure we’re well cared for. Cheryl and I just wanted a piece of authentic Italian pizza but instead, they fed us an elaborate spread (including wine) that left all of us stuffed. I will share with you - as beautiful as Sorrento & the surrounding area is, Naples itself is quite dumpy. It’s old to begin with, but then so is Messina. The difference here is that local officials just don’t seem to care as much. It’s not on our “must see” list, but about 40 miles down the road in Sorrento, it’s a true paradise worth visiting! We were back at the ship by 4:30, showered (hot shower) and went to dinner. We set sail at 5:30pm – show time was 8pm as usual – a group known as Journey South – apparently Simon Cowell is sponsoring these singing brothers after their appearance on Britain’s X-Factor – VERY good entertainers – beautiful voices. Captain says rough night expected at sea – (first in a long time) - gale force winds all the way to France – 15 – 20’ seas. We think back to the 30’ waves we went through for two days after leaving Chile, & 15-20 is nothing by contrast.