Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Naples - Pizza and Pompeii - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise – Celebrity Solstice

Thursday, July 16, 2009 – Naples, Italy – 91F – Scattered Clouds

I was up early and managed to get a great shot of the sun rising over Mt. Vesuvius

Sunrise over Mt Vesuvius

Naples, Italy was founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC and became a Roman town in the 4th century BC. Today, Naples has a population of 1.5 million people and is known to have the best pizza in the world. Even though Vesuvius is an active volcano, about 1 million people live at the base of this historical bad boy.

We have a very early excursion today, “Exploration of Pompeii” which departs at 8:15 AM – the morning excursions are preferred because of the heat (Pompeii is known to get very warm due to the absorption of the sun’s heat by the volcanic soil).

Pompeii is 14 miles east of Athens and it took about 30 minutes to get there. There is a bit of an uphill walk to the entrance to the archeological site but once inside it is all level ground.

Pompee- entrance to site

Entrance to Pompeii

There are a number of main streets in Pompeii. These streets have interesting stones (usually three) that span the streets at regular intervals. These stones enabled the people to cross the streets without getting their feet muddy. The streets are also flecked with white marble which reflected the moonlight and lit up the streets for better visibility.

Pompee street with stepping stones

Pompeii street with stepping stones

Typical homes in Pompeii had a small garden and a fountain; wealthier residents had larger homes with grand gardens and a large entrance or foyer area.

Pompee - Home w garden and fountain

Typical home with fountain and garden

Pompee - Wealthy Home

Large home with large garden and “contemporary” entrance

The Grand Plaza or Forum of Pompeii was the site of civic events

Pompee - Forum

The city also had a bakery, where wheat was ground in a millstone and bread baked in the oven (all in the same complex); there was also a restaurant, where patrons were served freshly prepared dishes. The food was kept warm by placing the dishes on a terra cotta bar.

Pompeii - Bakery

The Panera of Pompeii (structure is a millstone)


Pompeii Restaurant

The residents also had their temples. The Temple of Apollo had statues of both Apollo (God of the Sun) and Diana (Goddess of the Moon) facing each other in an East-West Direction. This placement allowed the Sun to rise over Apollo and set over Diana.

Pompee - Temple of Apollo and Diana

Temple of Apollo

The Basilica of Pompeii is an imposing structure near the exit to the city

Pompeii - Basilica

Pompeii Basilica

When Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the mountain ejected half its total height. The explosion left the mountain with two peaks. Residents that fled to the sea were killed by the ensuing tsunami and those that couldn’t get away succumbed to the the hot ash. This ash covered Pompeii and preserved the city and some of the inhabitants (in an eerie fashion). The victims were essentially “frozen” in time by the ash

Pompee - ash covered victim

Pompeii victim trying to avoid breathing volcanic ash

Vesuvius still stands over the Pompeii as a reminder.

Pompeii - Me and Vesuvius

Pompeii, Vesuvius, and me

The bus dropped us off next to the pier, where, this time, I did meet up with Ellen. Our goal was to taste the legendary Neapolitan pizza, whose unique taste is due to the volcanic soil from which the ingredients (tomatoes, cheese, and flour) come (Sorrento is the only other place you can get this pizza). We decided on a pizzeria a few blocks from the pier and each ordered a Pizza Margherita (tomatoes and cheese). The pizzas were pretty big but we both finished them off and, at least in my opinion, the best pizza I have tasted in a very long time.

Neapolitan pizza al fresco - yummy

We set out to explore the area around the pier but the heat and the unappealing environment of the neighborhood convinced us to walk back to the ship and return to the world of air conditioning and iced tea.

Some of the more interesting sites in the downtown area are visible best from the ship. The Castel Nuovo, built in the last 1200s, is directly across from the pier. This castle, once complete with a moat, is now a museum.

Castel Nuovo

Castel Nuovo

High on the Vomero Hill overlooking the city of Naples is the San Martino National Museum. This building was once a monastery.

San Martino National Museum - on Vomero Hill

San Martino National Museum

Dinner tonight was in the buffet – most of our clothes were already packed.

Tonight is the farewell show in the Solstice Theater. The show was a recap of all of the shows during the cruise – there were acrobatic and flying segments and some song and dance numbers from the Solstice Stars; in addition, Livewire, the Celtic Duo, did a few up tempo tunes. The show closed with Karen Grainger, who finished it all with a great rendition of “Over the Rainbow”. Following the show, we met with Karen in the Lobby of the theater – where I purchased one of her CDs. . When I went to get it signed, she told me she would have given me one and said she would rip up the sales ticket. Very nice of her.

When we got back to the room, the phone rang and it was Karen Grainger. She wanted to make sure she had the right ticket to tear up. What can you say?

Friday,July 17, 2009 – Civitavecchia, Italy – 80s – Clear

The Solstice has returned to home port

Civi - Debark day

The Summit along with a few other cruise ships are also docked.

Ellen had arranged transfers from the dock to Central Rome (Metro Station). Debark was quick – once our group was called, it was only minutes until we were on the bus. The trip to the Metro Station took a bit over an hour but once at the Metro Station, we easily made it to our hotel’s Metro Stop. The room was ready.

The Cruise portion of our vacation was officially over.

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