Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vacation Recap: March 14

We had decided that Monday would be a wonderful day for a trip to Pompeii.  At breakfast, Sister Christina urged us to hurry or we'd miss the train.  (She would stop by every table at breakfast, find out what the visitors's plans were, and give her own tips.)  So we had only one of Villa Rosa's excellent rolls and some coffee.
We took the train to Naples then took the Circumvesuviana line to Pompeii Scavi.  Once again, Sue's Italian helped us navigate the byzantine mass transit system.
At the entrance to the ruins we considered getting the audio-guide, but a distinguished man approached us and said he was collecting people for a 2-hour tour (shades of Gilligan's Island!), so we decided to go with him.  His name was Gennaro, and he gave us an excellent tour.  Here are some of the high points:  we started at the basilica, which was a public building in the forum.

We saw a tavern with stone counters.  The holes held wine in one, water in the next.  Yes, they watered down their wine, but who knows how strong it was.  The wine may have been like wine syrup.

We saw a brothel.  Prostitution was a legitimate, tax-paying business in the ancient world.

Apparently the prostitutes preferred firm mattresses.

There was a storeroom with a chain-link fence front where you could see all sorts of artifacts they discovered.  They also displayed some plaster casts of victims.

People threw coins into containers near each victim's plaster cast.*  They were treated like saints.

This mosaic in an entryway says "Beware of Dog."

Sadly, there are many stray dogs around Pompeii.  They beg for food from visitors.  Sue said that she read somewhere that the local poor had abandonned their dogs when they left for vacation in August.  (But if they are poor, how can they afford a vacation?)  Be that as it may, there is a group that tries to find the dogs good homes.

 We ended the tour at the town's Big Theater.  Of course it has perfect aucostics.
After Gennaro left us we did some further exploration including the Villa of the Mysteries, which I had particularly wanted to see.  Then we explored the adjacent modern town of Pompei.  It was pretty touristy.  Its economy leaned toward oranges and lemons.

These lemons are as big as a baby's head!

We returned to Rome and had dinner at Novona Notte.  A maniacally cheerful waiter greeted us at the door.  As he seated us he told the man at the table next to ours, "Here's a (female) friend for you. [in Italian]"  So this elderly man began chatting up Sue, who was eager to practice her Italian.  "Dmitry" said he was a lawyer in Rome on business.  He gave us food recommendations and was snapping his fingers at the waiters to get us another fork or a sample of lemoncello, etc.  As the evening progressed, his story changed.  Now he was a canonical lawyer working for the Vatican and he lived in Rome.  He knew the Pope personally.  In the meantime an American couple sat down at the table on our other side, and we chatted with them.  They were from Salt Lake City.  Dmitry wanted to join in our conversation.  He didn't know where Salt Lake City was, so they explained that it was near Las Vegas.  That excited him.  "Slot machine!"  He asked the wife if she worked at a casino; no, she was a gynecolgist and delivered babies.  Was the husband a doctor too?  No.  But before the guy could say anything more, Dmitry pointed at him, "Slot machine!" and made the pulling-the-lever gesture.  Then he made the gesture of pulling-the-baby-out.  He was so tickled with this combination, that he repeated it several times, to the embarrassment of the husband and amusement of the wife.  To make a long story short, at the end of the evening he asked Sue if she were coming (with him), and she said no.  We did have a good salad and spaghetti with olive oil and pepper.

*Gennaro told us that Vesuvius made a lot of noise before its eruption, so most of the Pompeiians fled and were saved.  Some must have stayed or returned to get their stuff.

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