Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day 15: Pompei - Bacoli

The sky is very blue this morning, the sun is shining and the temperature is on the cool side. This morning, we leave Pompei for Bacoli just on the other side of Naples. Before we check out, we take a walk around the "centro". We go into the big sanctuary church--Santa Maria del Rosario

Santa Maria del Rosario - Pompei

--and go up to the top of the campanile (by elevator) to see the view over the city, the excavations and and the surrounding area. We are treated to a sharp exchange between the elevator operator and some teenagers who are apparently trying to bargain with him about the admission price.

The views are wonderful.....

View of Vesuvius from bell tower in Pompei

View over Pompeii from bell tower

We stroll up and down one of the main shopping streets, stopping at a fancy food store called Melius to admire their inventory. But we go next door to a local bakery and buy some pasta for gifts and some biscotti to snack on. We make one more pass through the main piazza/park,

Kids hanging out in park/piazza in Pompei

load up the car, say goodbye to the hotel staff and get on the road. We have enjoyed staying in Pompei...once you get away from the entrances to the excavations and the street filled with vendors in front of the sanctuary church, it is a pleasant small Italian city....traffic is bad (as it is in most places) but it isn't a place to be avoided. It is much more pleasant than most of the towns in the area and the nearby countryside isn't very appealing, but for visiting Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and the other attractions in the area as well as having easy access to Naples, I think it works well. The Hotel Amleto was a very nice place to stay....old fashioned but comfortable, with a very helpful and pleasant staff. It does tend to be noisy...cars, vespas, street traffic....but it wasn't a big problem for us.

The drive to Bacoli takes about an hour...the autostrada to Naples, the "tangenziale" (limited access highway) across Naples--no need to drive in the center of the city- and then local roads around the beautiful harbor that stretches from Pozzuoli to Baia to Bacoli.

Pompei to Bacoli Google Map

This whole area to the west of Naples is known as the Campi Flegrei (the burning fields)--it was thought to be the entrance to the underworld in ancient times--and there is still volcanic activity in places as well as a number of volcanic lakes dotting the landscape. In addition, this was the "Roman riviera" at the height of Rome's power--all the rich and influential Romans had villas on the sea and on the hillsides. It had been settled by the Greeks in the 8th century B.C. and had been an important Greek outpost until the Samnites and then the Romans took over.

So there are a lot of mythological connections as well as Greek and Roman settlements in the area....Virgil wrote about the Campo Flegrei in the Aeneid and educated Englishmen made the Campi Flegrei an important stop on the "Grand Tour".

The hotel in Bacoli--the Villa Oteri--is located just across the street from a land-locked salt water lake called Lago di Miseno. Our room is large and comfortable (one drawback--not as bright as we would like)--and it has a large balcony overlooking the lake and the sea beyond. Vesuvius can be seen in one direction and Capri is visible in the other direction.

View from balcony of Villa Otero

We walk across the street to an empty restaurant but the waiter invites us to sit down at a table next to a window with a view over the lake. He doesn't give us a menu but asks if we want antipasto "of fish". We say okay and he proceeds to bring us six plates of various kinds of seafood....sauteed clams and snails in a garlic sauce, boiled octopus, stewed octopus in a savory tomato sauce, beans and mussels in a rich sauce, fried balls of dough (zeppole), a salad with fennel and seafood--it is all delicious and while Diana doesn't eat all the octopus, she enjoys the sauces. The bread is fantastic and we use it to mop up the remains of the sauces. We follow the antipasto with spaghetti alle vongole....cooked with fabulous little cherry tomatoes....which is also terrific. The wine is a local white made of the Falanghina grape....crisp, dry and fruity. The food is great, the waiter is very friendly--it is a wonderful, leisurely lunch in a great location. He, by the way, is the first Italian we've spoken to who likes George Bush and approves of the war - he quotes an Italian idiom to the effect of - to get peace you sometimes have to make war.

After lunch we stagger back across the street to the hotel and climb the two flights of stairs to our room (no elevator). Diana stays in the room to read and I go out exploring. The small lake turns out to be a perfect place to walk around, past the beach, across the strip of land that separates the lake from the bay, into the town of Bacoli where there is a long park and promenade along the lakefront and back to the hotel....the circumnavigation of the lake takes about 45 minutes.

We then take the car out and go for a ride...first to Cape Miseno (Misenum in Roman times and the place where the fleet was harbored under the command of Pliny)--a large rock outcropping with sheer cliffs dropping into the sea.

Cape Miseno

We drive to the top of the hill, take a tour of a beautiful hotel (the Cala Moresca) with gorgeous views back toward Naples

View from Hotel Cala Moresca

and out toward Capri and stop at the lighthouse at the tip (inadvertently barging into the local lovers' lane). We then head in the opposite direction and drive up the hill to the town of Monte di Procida. As we climb, the views in the direction of the islands of Procida and Ischia appear and we just catch a bright red sunset over the islands and the water. Lots of restaurants and bars line the road on this ridge...all with panoramic views.

We decide that dinner tonight is not going to be possible...there was too much of a late lunch, so we walk over to the food store down the street and buy some cheese and bread to augment our picnic leftovers if we decide we are able to ever eat again.

In fact, we do end up having a small picnic at the table on our balcony -the weather is cool but pleasant .

Tomorrow is a holiday....the Day of the Dead when Italians traditionally go to visit the cemetary and bring flowers to relatives' graves. We will take advantage of the fact that Naples will be closed up to drive into town and do a laundry.


poet123 said...

This brought back memories of our trip, we stayed in Capo Miseno and spent some happy times in Bacoli. We too were caught in a storm and the water lashed down and very soon we were in deep water with our hire car, fortunately it was a high axle people carrier so we made it back
Great pictures!!!

8:03 PM  

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