Saturday, September 09, 2006

Onward to Pompei

We visited Pompei yesterday which was a wonderful experience, though, not as I had imagined, littered with ashen corpses frozen in the last throws of death. Our guide, a good humoured mahogany coloured Italian called Antonio, told us that any such bodies decomposed ages ago, and what exists today are models made by archeologists by injecting liquid plastic into the impressions their bodies made in the hardened ash.

We only saw two of these models, which reside in glass cases in what used to be the local gym and bath house - the others, of which we were told there are many, as well as any other items such as pots and pans, goblets etc, can be found in a museum in Naples. The site is more of a bare bones sort of place in terms of walls and streets, and ironically one of the very few buildings that still has any sort of remaining visible frescos (and rock hewn beds!) is one of the brothels. Much like the trade of prostitution itself, it survies to this day. Antonio said proudly, "Pompei was the Vegas of its day!" and told us there were 24 brothels in this thriving commercial city - complete with (still visible) carved phallus-shaped arrows in the walls and streets in case you needed directions. The few remaining frescos show couples in various sexual positions, and not unlike the rest of the city with its bars and shop-lined streets, it just goes to show that despite a two thousand year gap, very little has changed in terms of how people live.

The day before yesterday we went on a 2.5 hour hike around the island of Capri, affording us breathtaking views of the lighthouse below, as well as some of the small local farms. Seeing all that beautiful fruit and veg made me realise just why the food here has been so good - it comes straight from these farms, without having been frozen and stuck on a ship and then truck, and then pawed by shoppers in supermarkets before you get to it. The tomatoes are so red, juicy and delicious, I can see myself harping on about the lack of anything comparative when I get back home.

Earlier in the week we decided to try out the local tennis club, and arrived to find a small Peruvian-looking man watering the grass court wearing an enourmous sombrero. "For the sun," he said when we complimented him on it. A few minutes later a small, muscled, slightly pot-bellied man with expensive sunglasses arrived, and the sombrero'd chap addressed him as 'Maestro.' This, it turned out, was the local Capri tennis pro, and also the chap who runs the club. Thinking it was 5pm and therefore a cool time to play tennis, we soon learned the error of our ways and nearly died from the combined excess of our frenzied and unskilled playing and the immense island heat. When we packed it in after our hour was up, the Maestro chuckled and remarked, "You finished already?" He had been coaching a young girl in the blazing heat for the same amount of time without a hat on, and aside from a few beads of sweat, looked perfectly unphased.

Having been to Sorrento yesterday, I think we picked wisely in terms of staying in Capri. It is by far the prettier of the two places, if, like me, you like a more rural quirky experience. Sorrento, though no less beautiful, is a lot more of an established Italian city, and not quite as charming.

Today it rained and we spent it quietly reading our books plotting our next excersion, which at this point looks as though it will be Ravello and Amalfi.


magazeen said...

Sounds delightful, glad to see you are enjoying your honeymoon. Love from all of us back home xxx

letters from london said...

Thanks very much! Looking forward to catching up with you guys, though admittedly, not returning to the reality of our 9-5 existence.