After blitzing 40km on our first day in Rome, we wanted to take it a bit easier the next day. But that’s just not how we roll. Instead, our second day in Rome involved setting our alarm for dawns crack, rubbing our tender feet and heading out for a day long tour of Mount Vesuvius, Naples and Pompeii.
Breakfast in Rome
We set our alarms for 5am in the morning so that we could eat our delicious breakfast (made by our host Luisa – I’d really recommend her accommodation if you are ever looking for a room in Rome). Her spread was definitely the most filling and varied of all the breakfasts that we had on our trip and we loved her for it. In fact it may have created quite a high expectation of the rest of the breakfasts to come. This one included rolls, toast, croissants, prosciutto, boiled eggs, cheese, nutella, jams and some donut type goodies that came pre packaged. Yes we totally took a couple for the road because you know what the Rand is like there.
To tour or not to tour?
After filling up we had to head to the other side of Rome to meet up with our tour group.
We’d um’ed and ah’ed about whether or not to do the tour and I’m so glad that we did. Not only do you not have to worry about a single thing the entire day, you also get the benefit of their wealth of knowledge. When we thought about doing it ourselves I felt sick at having to figure out the trains and the stops and the, and the, and the. You know what I mean right? We plan to leave Naples to get to Pompeii at 1, we miss that, only get there at 5 and then it’s closed. Then we’ve wasted money, probably had a massive argument and still have to get back to Rome in the dark. That stuff happens to us all the time. So after doing a bit of research, this tour was the most affordable and it included lunch in Naples which checked all our boxes.
The “problem” was that the meeting point for the tour was literally on the other side of the town. Which when I just woke up, seemed totally do able. After a nights rest my knee felt better and so did my feet. It seemed like it was all just because we’d done too much on the first day but our bodies were OK again. We were ready to take on the day.
The Colosseum in the morning is just perfection.
And so we walked. And walked. And walked…
And it felt OK. But then we realised that we were running a smidge late and so we needed to pick up the pace. Then things started getting real. Wow. My knee. Yoh. I don’t think I have ever hurt anything as badly as I hurt that flipping knee. We run/walk/hobbled to our tour meeting point which happened to be a very beautiful square that we probably wouldn’t have ever gotten to had it not been for the tour.
We were just a bit tired. In case that part is not obvious.
Once we’d sorted ourselves with the tour, we headed out of the Rome walls and hopped onto our bus.
The whole ride to Naples is 3 hours long. So for the first bit after you get on, they give you a bit of history about the city, the Roman Empire and how far it reached. It was really interesting. Then they let you sleep until you reach Casino which is a town about half way to Mount Vesuvius. There you stop for a Caffe’ or a Caffe Corecto (coffee with a shot of alcohol in it and apparently a frequently consumed drink in the mornings) and some kind of sweet treat for breakfast. It’s also a huge shop that sells a range of local produce varying from sheeps cheese to Limoncello.
Mount Vesuvius – also known as that active volcano we climbed
Once we were back on the bus we had more history as we drove to Mount Vesuvius. Here’s a few things that really stood out for me:
- Mount Vesuvius is still very much an active volcano. It will erupt again within the next 10 years.
- There are about 3 million people that are too close to the mountain (Naples is the 3rd biggest city in Italy) and they run the risk of being wiped out with the next eruption.
- 650 000 of those people stay in the red zone and the government paid each family 50 000Euros to move for their safety. The majority of them took the money, and then stayed exactly where they are.
- There will only be a 3 days notice of an impending eruption as it is obviously very heavily monitored. But they are worried that because Italian time is so much slower than other parts of the World, people won’t leave quickly enough.
- The mountain itself was two thirds bigger than it is right now, that’s how much of itself exploded when it destroyed Pompeii all those many years ago.
- It did not spew out lava as the media/movies may lead you to believe. Rather a massive cloud of rock, ash and dust that rained down on Pompeii and 3 other little cities, completely covering them by more than two stories.
- No one knew that Pompeii even existed until a few hundred years ago when it was discovered. But more on that in the next post.
This was a real experience for me. Not only were we climbing a massive active volcano, but my knee was completely buggered. And you’re walking up sand to get to the top. Which is not super far away, but it is if you feel like you knee may break at any given second. Anyway, as we climbed the weather turned a bit so it was flipping cold up there and we couldn’t see as much of the view of Naples as we should have been able to. This explains why I’m wearing a jersey on my head. I can’t handle having a cold head. Weird I know. Seth also offered to piggy back me down the mountain (because going down was SO much worse than going up with my knee, but I just had visions of us both rolling down the mountain and so I took it slow and eventually got to the bottom. You have about 2 hours to get up and down and that was more than enough for me to do it even with my busted knee.
Also, looking into the crater was a bit of an anticlimax in a way. I expected to see hot lava bubbling away but instead there’s like plants and stuff. Merrily growing away in an active volcano. Bizarre. The only sign that anything is even happening under the surface is that there are little plumes of smoke that escape through crack in the rock every now and then.
Naples and Neapolitan Pizza
After that we headed straight back to the bus for a typical Neapolitan Pizza. We drove through some parts of Naples and it was so interesting as Seth’s great, great grandfather came from there (hence the Italian surname and part of the reason we wanted to visit this beautiful country). It’s not the best looking city, I’ve got to say. But it has a lot of character so that makes up for it!
There’s a lot of history that goes with the pizza options in this country, but suffice to say that each region of Italy makes their pizza totally differently. In Rome the pizza’s are flat and crispy. In Naples they are thick and doughy. And as we were to find out, in Venice the middle of the pizza was thin with a thick crust.
(My favourite is the Roman version)
We stopped at a restaurant where you could choose to have a Margarita pizza (tomato with cheese), a Lard pizza (also known as a Bianca – no tomato just cheese and ham) and then there was another one with some kind of fish on it I think. But that’s not my vibe so I didn’t take that option.
Both pizza’s were tasty but wow, so much dough. So filling.
Now that our bellies were full we were ready to head back onto the bus and start the second part of the tour – Pompeii!!
Have you been to Naples? Did we miss out by not adding this properly to our itinerary?