Our first tour of the trip and it will set the tone for the rest of the days. No pressure Naples. Can you deliver?
Our first stop of the trip and our first of two cruise line shore excursions. Our trip today is the death march of tours; up to Mt. Vesuvius in the morning, a (very, very) short lunch and then Pompeii in the afternoon. Both are outdoor activities and the weather calls for 38-40 celsius. I’ve stopped converting to Fahrenheit because it makes me want to cry.
We load up my backpack with water, eat a big breakfast and meet in the ships’s theater at 8:25am. Our number is called, we get stickers (permanently) affixed to our chests as both a badge of shame as well as a clarion call to pickpockets to ‘target this group!’ and head out to our bus. On board we met Frank (the driver) and Franchesco (the tour guide whose name is very hard to spell and much too long, so will be shortened from this point forward to ‘Francis’). We get the safety spiel and we head off on our 40 minute drive to Mt. Vesuvius. Then immediately stop. Because four people didn’t make the call for bus departure so we waited for them to join us. Back underway.
Francis tell us the plan for the day which is mostly what we expected except our first stop would not be a smoking volcano but instead a cameo factory where we would get a demonstration and be able to use a bathroom. Hmmm. Do we have an option to stay on the bus? Nope. This is all being done for our benefit–it is a free bathroom! Plus the opportunity to buy stuff. Once we have finished with the ‘tour’ then, and only then will we hike to the volcano, and onward to Pompeii.
We stop at the cameo place, watch the demonstration and wander in small circles looking at each other for 15 minutes, hop back on the bus and ride up to Pompeii on a 20 minute hair raising ride to the top(ish) of the mountain. The road is about 1.5 busses wide and full of hairpin curves, but Frank ‘the bus driving MAN’ makes it look easy. We wind our way up while Francis gives us the (very interesting) history of the mountain. The most famous eruption was, of course, the one that covered Pompeii in 70 AD. Has gone off multiple times since. Little factoid, if it goes more than 80 years between eruptions, then it is going to be a big one. Last eruption was in the 1940s. Do the math. But, Francis assures us, there are a ton of monitoring devices constantly evaluating the eruption threat and there are no warnings today, we should be fine.
Bus stops, we get off and begin a trudge up a very steep path walking on fine volcanic rock which is like slogging through a bog, but dryer. We have 2 hours on the mountain and we need to leave 30 minutes to get back down, which, in my head, means it is going to take more than 30 minutes to get up. 48 sweaty minutes to be exact and we are wondering what the hell we signed up to do. The view is great, the volcano is a very large hole in the ground without any lava (which is both really, really good while also being a bit of a disappointment) and there is a wind at the top. We putter around then head back down the mountain to get to the bus and into the air conditioning….it is starting to roast.
Then retrace our path back down the mountain to where we will be given 25 whole minutes to eat lunch before we start our Pompeii tour. We are dropped in a parking lot full of busses, join a conga line of tourists heading to a square where there are a lot of pizza and pasta places. Turns out that Napoli is known for being the birthplace of pizza. And the short time to eat lunch isn’t much of a problem–it only takes 2 minutes to cook a Napoli pizza! Matter of fact there are four rules that one must follow for a pizza to be a Napoli pizza. It must have only four ingredients (flour, yeast, water, salt). It has to be cooked in a wood fired stove. The crust must be formed by hand and cannot be cooked longer than 90 seconds. And, of course, it must be thin!
We queue up for two pizza margaritas, enter a bit of a scrum with the other customers, but emerge successfully with two piping hot pies. They are fantastico (which probably isn’t a word, but seemed appropriate at the time). We managed to shovel the pizzas in our faces to finish in the allotted time with only second degree burns on the top of our mouths.
Back into the sun and we head to Pompeii.
Let me cut to the end. We made part of the tour, but not all. Because we are wimps. We are in an ancient city that was covered in ash, then excavated. Maybe there were roofs on the houses at one point but now there is almost no protection from the sun. The temperatures? Over 100 degrees with nary a breeze. We wandered through the city with about 10,000 other tourists listening to Francis drone in our ear and we quickly became tapped. We quietly slipped left when we should have gone right and headed out of the town and looked for some shade. Which is where we met our tour group an hour later when they came out looking much worse for the wear. Back on the bus and to the boat by 5pm for showers. Naples was good. Not great. Probably more to do with our choice of what to see rather than the city itself.