ExecSummary: Ercolano rocks. John rolls....
I thought this was supposed to be relaxing, not taxing. My daily routine so far seems to be bed by 1 am thanks to 10 pm dinners), up with sun at 5:45 am, thanks to, well, the sun). Won’t be breaking the streak tonight as its already 12:30 am.
Great day today visiting Ercolano, Pompeii’s younger, prettier, and less well know sister site. I get lazy and spring for the 40 Euro bus excursion rather than 4E train sojourn. Guide on the bus, an Italian Pavorati look-alike named “JJ,” is very knowledgeable and gives good overview of Sorrento coast on way to the site. The day starts off Italian-style… the 7:45 am bus rolls in pronto at 8:10; main highway at a standstill heading north due to Boston-style road construction (lots of closed lanes, no sight of actual workers); when we arrive at Ercolano we need to stand in queue in the hot sun because the ticket machine computer is not working.
I devise a theory that needs to be tested. Ancient Romans are given so much credit for their efficiency – mass communication (i.e. the art of imperial propaganda); effective laws; administration of government; efficient transportation; and even the first postal system. According to my theory one of two things happened: either the Romans inherited their efficiency from their assimilation of Germanic tribes as they began their northern expansion in the 1st century AD; or, efficiency is genetic and it has been de-selected through some sort of Darwinian process. Or, outlier theory: maybe I just expect too much and need to learn to chill with a Limoncello.
I know many of you have already shared your fond memories of Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and Amalfi. If you have never seen it, Ercolano (Herculaneum) is not to be missed. It is the closest authentic site in the world to how ancient Romans actually lived. Many building are multi-storied. The remains are staggeringly impressive. It has been said that at Pompeii – which was aggressively excavated in the 17th-19th centuries before better techniques were employed – archaeologists did more damage than Vesuvius. Ercolano was in large part excavated using modern techniques. (And, only about 25% of Ercolano has been excavated so far compared to 75-80% for Pompeii.)
The walking tour was only 3 hours for Ercolano, but I managed to break off and do my own tour. Worked out well. They give you a little radio receiver and ear plug so everyone can hear JJ describe the major points of interest at each villa. I was able to listen to what he was describing while I was in a separate villa, then backtrack to see what he was pointing out. I covered twice as much ground by visiting sights that did not fit into his standard itinerary.
On return to Sorrento, had a late lunch at Pedro’s. The Mariana pizza sans anchovies is perfecto! Then I changed hotels. Have moved from the quaint, centrally-located, family-run hotel in Sorrento City center where the owner made a special grocery-store run to pick up soy milk for me, to the fabulous Hilton Sorrento Palace in the hills behind the city. Five-star view of the sea and Vesuvius from my bedroom and balcony. All the amenities of home, including $32 daily internet connectivity (vs free at the other hotel).