Having decided I’d seen plenty of Rome, I realised I could fit in a quick trip to Naples to see a couple of choice attractions before heading north to Florence. As is often he case with last minute plans, this turned out to be far more stressful than I was hoping. I was catching a late train from Rome, but I should’ve had just enough time to get the last metro towards Portici; where I was staying. If not, I had a backup bus planned.
But of course the train was delayed and I ended up missing the metro and the last bus. If I could pick a city to be stranded in, I would probably avoid Naples. What with it’s reputation for being run by the mafia and all that.
I eventually managed to figure out that if I stood at a particular street corner a night bus would come and pick me up at some point. However, said corner was particularly seedy and this was definitely the least safe that I’ve felt in Europe so far. Between 1AM and 1:45 I watched two separate prostitutes get picked up just across the road (I didn’t ask if they were prostitutes, but it seemed pretty obvious). The bus did arrive and I made it Portici though.
My surprise jaunt to Naples was only going to be one day, so I woke up early and made it a significant one. My original plan for coming there was to hike up mount Vesuvius, but I had done no research whatsoever, and as soon as I saw the mountain I realised that climbing it was not going to happen. So I took the train to Pompeii to see the ruins.
The ruins of Pompeii are massive. It’s basically an entire town that was completely buried in ash during an eruption of mount Vesuvius. Everyone died and a massive ghost town was slowly uncovered many years later.
Exploring the ruins felt a lot like all the exploring I’ve been doing in cities. I was just walking down interesting looking streets to see what I could find. Except of course that all you ever find is more destroyed houses and the occasional remaining mural, or piece of pottery. Not much else to say about the Pompeii ruins other than that they are vast. They are far larger than the Foro Romano, which itself is absolutely enormous.
From Pompeii station I found a giant over-lander bus that would take me to the top of mount Vesuvius. Thus leaving just the last half hour of hiking and skipping the 5 or 6 six hours preceding it (not to mention the unsolved logistical problem of getting to the base of the mountain).
So yeah, I went to the top of mount Vesuvius and it was great. Vesuvius is a massive (and still technically active) volcano, and you can walk around the lip of the mouth to see not only great views of Naples and it’s surrounds, but also of the giant gaping hole that is the volcano itself. Very cool.
The Vesuvius bus company returned me to Pompeii station and I on a train back towards Portici. There was still some time left in the day, and I had heard of some more ruins near to where I was staying. So I got off a couple of stations early and went to check out the ruins of Ercolano, also ashed by the big V. At this stage I was pretty tired of ruins (having spent much of the last two days looking at them), but Ercolano turned out to be my favourite ones. The fact that it was late afternoon (and that they’re much lesser known) meant I practically had the place to myself.
Ercolano is also just right in the middle of the city, like, in between houses. Which gives you an amazing juxtaposition of ancient ruins and modern lower class dwellings. I also much preferred the smaller size of Ercolano, it felt like I could explore it all and not feel like I was missing anything. And finally, to top it off, the late afternoon sun was lighting the ruins in beautiful gold. Highly recommend going to the ruins of Ercolano if you’re ever near Pompeii.
I walked back to Portici and spent one more night there before catching a train and then a bus to Florence in the morning.