I am typing this from the first decently choppy night on the cruise ship after we left the port at Naples. The first night was a little rocky, but tonight there’s considerably more wind and it’s definitely noticeable and ever-present. It serves as a great reminder that mother nature is in charge, something that the people of this area are not likely to forget.
Naples, though full of history and art and music, is a great city underneath the grittiness and grime that unfortunately pervades the cityscape here. From an outsider’s perspective, the city looks run-down and dilapidated. Perhaps there’s a lot of truth in that, but the people of Neopolis (literally “new city” in Greek) that I encountered wouldn’t have you believe that. They would rather sing out from their hearts as they stroll down the streets, or so I am led to believe.
Obviously, for any of you who have read my writings already know, Ancient Roman culture is a big interest of mine right now, so the trip to Pompeii was the number one thing I was looking forward to on this vacation. And I was not let down.
For me as I write, I can lay comfortably and know that the shaking and rocking of the ship upon the vast Mediterranean Sea will most likely be nothing more than that. For the people of Pompeii, who had none of today’s technology or communication networks available to them, mother nature had come calling and there was nothing that anyone could do about it but spend their last moments in fear. It is a horror I cannot even begin to imagine and there were absolutely no survivors.
Can you imagine it? To these people, it surely meant that the gods were so angry enough with them that their entire population would perish in under three minutes, once Mount Vesuvius finally exploded. To the Christians who were being persecuted and to the Jews who had just lost the war against Rome, it was likely seen as God’s wrath for the desecration of such a holy place. None of them could comprehend the physics and true nature of the volcano, not even Pliny the Elder, one of the wisest men of his day. I wonder what additions he would have made to the Naturalis Historia, after witnessing such an incredible marvel of death and destruction.
As much as Pompeii is a testament to the destructive power of nature, the site where we visited today also highlights the strength of mankind’s perseverance. When the city was at last rediscovered nearly two millennia later, it had to be excavated, a project that still remains in progress today. Only about one third of the city has been completely excavated to this day. And it was simply amazing that we got to walk up those streets, into the houses and even sit where they sat in their free public spaces.
Declan mostly enjoyed walking on the streets and hopping from stone to stone. He was already pretty tired when we got there, so there were more than a few times when we needed to remind him to not wander off or touch things, but that’s pretty normal for four year olds. I’m proud of how excited he was to be there. He made me promise that we will build our own volcano experiment one day soon.
It began to rain right around the time we got off our excursion shuttle, so we all agreed that we would rather just go grab a bite to eat and head back on the ship. We did that by finding a local pizza joint where we wanted to see what all the fuss was about Neapolitan pizza.
It was, as you can expect, some of the best pizza I have ever had. I didn’t expect the pizza to come out as big as it did, but we managed to finish two pizzas between the three of us. I had to convince Declan that the pizza was good by folding over his slice the way New Yorkers do with their pizza. He bought it and he loves it too.
We did make one more stop before we went back on the ship and that was at a lovely local coffee shop where we got drinks and pastries that were also delicious. We could have maybe spent more time to see more sights while we were out there, but we were all soaked by this point and Declan and Ava (Kiley and Rob’s little girl who Declan adores) were pretty exhausted as well, so we determined to head back up and relax instead.
Tomorrow we are on to the beautiful port of Livorno. We decided after researching the time and effort it would take for us to get to Pisa on our own from there, that we will just hang out by that port tomorrow instead. Rumor has it that they have some of the best gelato in Italy and we are all, especially Declan, eager to test that theory.