(April 8, 2014)
Our original plan had been to take the train to Naples,pick up a car there, and then drive to see Pompeii. After some discussion, we called the agency (Auto Europe — I highly recommend them.) and changed our plans to pick the car up in Rome.
Yes, we drove in Rome.
To be exact, J. drove, and I navigated. It was INSANE and nerve-wracking, but J. did a great job, and I helped by using Google Maps and we only missed one turn that had us going out of our way for a bit. J.tells me that driving in Ireland was harder, being on the correct side of the road made it all just fine.
We took the autostrade (toll road) and did just fine. Pompeii — the excavations — were harder to find than we expected, but we eventually got there. (There is a modern city that starts right at the edge, and lots of signs to individual archeological sites all over the place. So you have to know where the big place is. We parked a little far down, but as it turns out, very close to a secondary ingress/egress point. With the help of a nice lady at the tourist bureau, we got an audio guide and a recommended walking tour. It cost more than the ones at the site itself, but not by much. (Mostly we learned that we only need one guide, not two. We just take turns at different points, or tell the other what’s interesting. Having two just made the experience a bit more solitary than we prefer.)
Pompeii is huge and there is lots to see. It’s also an active excavation site, and many things can be closed or unavailable. We found ourselves backtracking a LOT because roads were closed and there were several places of interest that just weren’t available. that was very frustrating. All in all, however, we spent about three hours there.
We finished our drive at Il Granaio in Paestum. This is a lovely villa converted into an inn with a restaurant and it is HIGHLY recommended. Lovely rooms, some with views of the ruins themselves (ours!), good-sized bathrooms (you have no idea), and a lovely setting. Did I mention the ruins right across the street?
Their restaurant was closed, but they recommended us to one just a short drive away, slighty inside the archeological area — La Gallo e La Perla. We shared an appetizer of local cheese (Burrata comes from this area, and we saw places where they make it all over the place) baked in parchment that was delightfully wonderful with olive oil and a touch of thyme. My primi was an utterly wonderful seafood risotto that had me cleaning the plate with a bit of bread at the end; J. had something I can’t remember, but he tells me it was delicious. My ‘mixed seafood grill’ was properly prepared, but not all that flavorful, which took me by surprise. J’s polpette was delicious, however.
After we went back, J. snuck out and took pictures of the ruins by moonlight. A taste of tomorrow!