Jeff's Blog - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - Mt. Vesuvius

Today was yet another upper-70s and full-sun day in southern Italy. I took the train to the ancient small resort town of Herculaneum and saw the ruins. After Pompeii, Herculaneum was a bit of a let-down, although it was quite easy, being only 8-square-blocks in size, and although the gruesome bones of those attempting to escape the eruption by sea are still on display. A 10-block walk uphill led to the bus depot across the street from the train station, where I caught a bus to Mt. Vesuvius. The parking lot on the mountain is a very steep 20-minute hike from the peak (30 minutes for an old man with an advanced beer muscle). The crater at the top is really really steep, about like a coffee cup rather than the soup bowl I was expecting. After reaching the peak, the path continued, allowing me to walk about half way around the crater. There was no way to fit the crater into one photo, but the photo below shows about half of it. One edge of it was spewing steam, but that's not in this photo. The view outward covers quite a distance, of course, since this mountain is like a large pimple in an otherwise flat region, but the haze made it difficult to identify Herculaneum or Pompeii; only huge details like the Bay of Naples and the city of Naples itself were obvious. After 30 minutes on the peak, I had to leave to make it back to my bus before it left. The walk back down was considerably easier. The train station was still right across the street from the bus drop-off point and I rode it to the city of Oplontis, where a flat 4-block walk took me to Villa Poppea. This was the fancily-decorated villa where Nero's wife, Poppea, lived. (He got mad at her one day and kicked her to death, along with his unborn child, what a guy.) Like Pompeii and Herculaneum, the villa was buried under 20 feet of ash and pumice, and rediscovered sometime in the last 150 years. The wall paintings were incredibly preserved and very vibrant and detailed. A final 1-stop train ride and 15 minute walk took me back to my B&B in Pompeii. Tomorrow is a 2-hour train ride to Paestum to see the three Ancient Greek temples there, and sleep there before heading back to Rome for the rest of my vacation.

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