Procida / Pompeii
The weather on Thursday was as sunny as I could've hoped for. I headed out in the morning with a friend from the Midwest named Hannah. We walked down to the waterfront to catch the ferry to Procida, a small island in the Gulf of Naples. Public transportation arrives late in Naples if it arrives at all, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to find out that our ferry was cancelled. Our next option left at one o'clock, three hours later. Determined to get to that specific island, we bought our tickets and went back into town to get lunch.
Lunch was good and our ferry left at one without problems. Hannah and I both fell asleep on the 40 minute ride to the island, but fortunately we woke up before the ship came into port. I was immediately amazed by the colorful buildings along the turquoise water. As soon as we got out, Hannah and I walked along the docks and admired little boats.
We went back towards the buildings and walked along the waterfront. Most of the buildings were cafes or seafood markets. Most of the people strolling around were locals enjoying the sunny day; only a few other tourists hung out in the area. I got some electric blue gelato and we trekked uphill and inland, trying to get a view of the whole island. We emerged from the tiny streets at a yellow church overlooking the ocean. Both of us exclaimed "WOW!" at the same time. The view of the bay was breathtaking.
After taking dozens of pictures, we walked down to the waterfront. A giant castle-like structure sits atop the biggest hill on the island. Many more adorable cafes served locals and a few travelers.
We resumed our walk uphill towards the castle and entered a church there with a balcony over the ocean. Naples and Mount Vesuvius were visible in the distance. Finding nothing else to do up there, we found a beach and met some of the local cats. I regretted being in jeans and Converse because the water felt lovely.
With only an hour or so left before our ferry home would depart, we just explored more streets in different parts of the island. Everything was so adorable and beautiful that it was hard to believe that the island was real. We marveled at how quiet it was. After being in a chaotic city, this was a nice break. The ferry back to Naples picked us up at 5:50. I was thrilled to be able to stand on the deck. We cruised in to Naples at sunset. Huge black clouds took up most of the sky, but the sun peeked through and illuminated the city beautifully.
The next day, the sun was shining and I took the train to Pompeii. I had a late start and the train station was packed by the time I got there at 10 am. When the train arrived, people plowed each other over to get a seat. I stood for the 40 minute train ride but I didn't mind. Upon arrival, I followed the horde to the archaeological site, bought my ticket, and entered at Porta Marina. The ocean came up almost to this ancient gate until the volcanic eruption changed the area's geography. The volcano itself looked different too; its two peaks were once one. People living in Pompeii had no idea that they lived in the shadow of a volcano. It was ominous to see Vesuvius nearby with clouds crowding around the crater.
My guidebook gave me a general route and some interesting information about many spots in the ancient city. Most of the archaeological sites I've been to were governmental buildings and emperors' residences, so it was interesting to learn about daily life in a middle class Roman city. On my way to the main square, I passed by stepping stones installed to keep citizens' feet dry while the city was flooded with water to clean the streets.
My guidebook took me through the main square past the Temple of Jupiter and down smaller streets. I got a bit lost but I had fun running around and poking my head into different houses. Most frescoes and artifacts are now held in the National Archaeological Museum, but here and there I saw a statue or a beautifully tiled floor.
My route took me through the House of the Faun, the House of the Tragic Poet (this one had a bunch of Iliad frescoes and a floor mosaic that says CAVE CANEM--beware of the dog), the bathhouse (it had heated floors!), the brothel, and the amphitheater. Each of these places were completely fascinating to me and it was surreal to know that normal Roman citizens lived there. I drank out of the same fountain that was used by them thousands of years ago! In contrast to my visit to Hadrian's Villa, I loved being able to spend as much time there as I wanted to without worrying about the weather or catching transportation back. I left exhausted, happy, and excited to check out more archaeological sites in the area. I would love to catch up on my last few days in Napoli right now, but I need to wake up very early tomorrow to catch a train to an ancient Greek city!