jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 51 [21 Mar 09] – Naples

Posted in Naples by jn82 on March 22, 2009

Took a very early morning train from Rome to Naples today, on the cheaper Intercity Plus trains with a 5€ fee instead of the Eurostar Italia Av one with a 20€ reservation fee, as there was not much value paying for a one reduction in travel time.

Naples is a pretty grotty looking city, even compared to places like Rome and Milan. It supposedly has a crime rate around three times of Rome, and a triple digit amount of murders a year. I guess if you are Italy’s largest port city and have one of the most dangerous volcanos in Europe, your property prices are pretty poor and as a result more questionable take up residence here. After dumping our bags at the hostel, we headed off by train to Ecorlano Circumvesuviana station, to visit Mt. Vesuvius and Herculano.

Mt. Vesuvius is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last 100 years, and responsible for the destruction (and preservation) of five cities, of which Pompeii and Herculano are the two largest ones. We took a mini-bus part way up the volcano till the ticketing entry point, after which was a trek uphill of around 30 minutes before reaching the rim of the volcano.

We had not really prepared for the weather on the volcano, and I was wearing only the usual shirt and thick fleece jacket. Everyone else around us had on all their thick coats, wind breakers and head gear. Not a good sign. The wind on the volcano was insane, and the wind chill temperature must have been around -10 degrees celcius or something. Extremely unbearable. But we had no choice but to continue to the top!

Looking into the volcano’s crator from the rim.

Not exactly what I expected to see, but then again if there was any molten lava bubbling inside I would probably not be around to write this post now. All we could see was a huge crator, of which 700m of the rim was accessable to walk around. It was really quite amazing to be standing this high up on and beside something so dangerous.

Path and barrier around the rim.

We did not have very long to walk around the rim as the mini-bus driver only gave us one hour and twenty minutes from the time he dropped us off at the enterance, and after climbing up and down and stopping in-between to take pictures, we only had around ten minutes at the end of the path. That was fine, because it was too cold to hang around there anyway! After getting down and thawing out in the mini-bus, we headed off for lunch, and then made out way to the ruins of Herculano, the smaller and less well known of the two larger cities which got buried in superheated pyroclastic material that has solidified into volcanic tuff when Mt. Vesivius erupted in 79 AD. It is really amazing that we were walking in a 2,000 year old ancient city which had been so well preserved that many of the original buildings, roads and art work are as they were back in the day. The level of preservation here as a result of the volcanic ash trumps the previous ruins we saw at Coimbriga in Coimbra and Caesaraugusta in Zaragoza, which were badically abandoned cities left to decay over the course of time.

Mt. Vesuvius, Herculano and the modern day slums of Ercolano, practically indistinguishable.

Well preserved pillars.

More pillars.

Ancient eating place.

Collapsed mosaic floor of the male thermal baths.

Some preserved art.

We only got to Herculano around 2pm, and did not have time to have a good and detailed look at the entire site because it closed at 5pm. On to the more famous city of Pompeii tomorrow! More ruins ahead.

Today’s pictures here.

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