Left early from the site on the first shuttle again, in Rome we walked to the Vodafone shop and bought the Italian sym for our phone which would also give us 2gb of data for €20 which they said would last the month we needed.
From there to the Pantheon equipped with our Rick Steve’s guide which was fantastic and told us all about the amazing building. From there we walked to the Vatican to sort out how we were going to see it tomorrow and found that if we book online we can jump the miles of que to walk straight in. So off to a different McD’s to do the booking, great, €4 extra each to book online. Looks like the Pope has taken a lesson froming RyanAir!
Downloaded some more of Ricks guides while there
Back to the site for an early evening and a rest before what we guessed would be a long day tomorrow. But the train was late and we missed the shuttle bus so had to wait two hours for the next one as this was the long break for the driver. But it did give us time to look around the shops in the little town near the station and buy a splitter so we could both have our ear phones plugged into the iPad at the same time. The one I have is sitting on my desk at home, doh!
Early into Rome headed first to McD’s as Steve had to pay the French Income tax online then to the Vatican and asked if we could get in earlier than our booking which was at 11:30, they said no problem as they were very quiet but the que without bookings was already halfway down the street! Took a bit of time to get orientated and find the main museum exhibits but did find the exhibition of “Pope Mobiles” through the ages which was very interesting ate our lunch then managed to find the main museum which was signposted in Latin which was why we missed it. There was not a Rick Steve’s guide for the museum unfortunately but we saw a great part of it which was fantastic with an amazing amount of superb frescoes and other treasures of untold wealth. Finally into the Sistine Chapel where we did have one of Ricks guides which was amazing as he told the whole story of Michael Angelo’s commission and we were glad we were not with the paid for tours who were just rushed through non stop. But Rick did tell us to exit through the small door on the right rather than the proper exit. This took us down where the tours go and straight into the Basilica saving the queues which at the time were about a quarter of a mile just for the Basilica. We spent about two hours walking round again guided by Rick, what a great and lucky find his guides were.
A NewZealander we had met on the shuttle yesterday had told us that we must go to Hadrian’s castle near to the Vatican which had a very good audio guide so we again caught the early shuttle, we were going to walk to to the Vatican to post our son Nik’s birthday card but realised as we got caught up in thousands of people that Wednesday is when the Pope appears on the veranda so the hords were heading for St Peters square so we diverted towards the castle to return to Vatican City Post Box later when all the people had gone.
The castle visit was all that Mike had said it was very interesting with a very good audio guide which luckily he had told us about the hidden numbers which explained very much more about the stolen treasures that the Italian police had been confiscating from places like the Getty museum in America.
Nearly forgot about the Vatican post office and had to retrace our steps back to the Vatican so Nikki could have a special post mark on his card then back to the camp site for an earlyish evening.
Mike and Kelly and daughter Haley popped in and we spent the rest of the evening chatting about what we all had been doing and how to visit New Zealand which they were about to return to.
Packed up and filled and emptied and left the site at about 11:30, the special rate as ACSI members didn’t include the €1 each a day tourist tax so the camping cost us €18 a day but with the free shuttle bus that really wasn’t too bad for a reasonably secure site within easy teach of Rome that we could happily leave the van all day.
We headed for Tivoly where there was the Villa Adriana which was Hadrian’s country residence, a very good afternoon walking around a very well preserved enormous Roman site somewhat larger than we think of as a villa nowadays. Left about six pm and headed for the villa d’Est also at Tivoly but couldn’t find it and ended up driving and driving trying to find somewhere to stop finally found a road outside some industrial buildings and had a quiet night. We even found free wifi there from the University and managed to pinpoint the villa on google maps to make it easier to find tomorrow.
Set out early-ish and found that the villa was in the middle of town in a definitely no parking area for Motorhomers (we had actually passed it yesterday without knowing it) but managed to find a housing estate about a mile away where we could easily park and walk in. The park was amazing with very many fountains constructed in the 1500’s no pumps were used at all as all were driven by gravity still using the early pipe work, there was even a fountain which played music via a pipe organ driven by air compressed by the falling water. We spent a very pleasant few hours with their audio guide. Again Judy being over 65 got free entry as she had to all the attractions we had visited so far, quite a bonus perhaps we should have waited till next year when Steve would have qualified as well, this is a consession only open to over 65’s from the. EU. But by the time we finish it will probably safe us over a hundred euros, thank you EU.
Left about 14:00 heading for Gehta where we could see an overnight stop on our way to Pompeii but when we arrived it was on the other side of the dual carriageway so carried on and eventually found a very wide road outside a Church where a couple of lorries had stopped for the night. Had a quiet time ready for an early start towards Pompeii in the morning.
Left our parking at 7:30 on our way to Pompeii and managed to fill up with autogas as we had read that it could be difficult to get further south. Very bad roads going round the Naples by-pass every lay-by was full of sacks of rubbish obviously purposefully dumped there actually very much worse than Marocco and this is supposed to be an advanced European country. The standard of driving especially the scooters is appalling, the only saving grace is that they seem to have lowered all the speed limits by about 20kph so the overall speeds are much lower. But when we keep to the limit we are constantly creating a jam behind us and they overtake constantly on double white lines and blind corners. But I presume the lower limits has brought the overall speeds down so the number of fatals must be lower.
Arrived about 10:00 at Camping Zeus at Pompeii which is right next door to both the ruins and the station found a supermarket to top up with a few things and had a lazy day finding where everything was and doing a bit of work on the Internet which somehow wasn’t asking for a paid for sign-in at that time.
A nice Australian couple Geoff & Flav parked next to us and we had a good chat with them.
Left early to arrive at the Pompeii site when they opened at 8:30, Steve had downloaded a guide from the Internet which was very good as it showed pictures of the things that could not be seen. We spent nine hours there and just about saw everything important, arriving back at the van really tired. The preservation of the frescos and other things was amazing, very much different to what we had expected. The amazing thing was the plaster models of the people which had been made by pouring plaster into the ash covered bodies where the flesh had gone but the skeleton was intact , which produced a model complete with facial expressions some in agony presumably as they were hit by the poisonous gas others presumably resigned to their fate looking quite serene.
A very strange and moving experience.
A visit to Herculaneum which is another site closer to the volcano which fared completely differently. This site got the seeering hot gasses from the volcano explosion which burned all organic matter but timber of any thickness was chared but survived, the site was then engulfed in a mud flow which buried everything and preserved it so many buildings were almost intact. Only recently found were the remains of many people who had run to the sea carrying much of their valued possessions and sheltered in the wharf buildings where about 300 skeletons were found with their possessions. The whole site has been excavated from the 30 odd meters of mud which covered and preserved it, rather than the six meters of ash that covered Pompeii.
Left a bit late as we had some trouble with the batteries, the site voltage on the outlet must be a bit low so the charger has not been working and the house battery is dangerously low. So spent a couple of hours re- setting the panel and investigating the problem.
Eventually got away with the plan of catching the train to Sorrento then catching a bus to be driven round the Amalfri coast road which we had read was just too tight to comfortably drive in our Motorhome. Had a great day being driven in buses on very narrow roads which the buses negotiated by shear might is right and bullying their way through. Very expert driving though it must be said sometimes passing other vehicles with only a few centimetres to spare. Visited, Almalfi, Sorrento, Positano and Solerno. While at Amalfi there was a cruise ship in the bay and also a five masted square rigged schooner (if that is the right name). Some of the cruise people were on the open top bus we took at one point.
When we came back on the bus the five master was now in full sail and heading out of the bay.
Returned to the site at about 20:30 and chatted with the German people about their experience going to the Vesuvius volcano, they said that they were not impressed but if we hadn’t seen one we should go, so up early tomorrow.
We had read in our guide book that there was a normal bus went up to the volcano every hour so caught the train to Herculanium using the 24hour tickets we had bought yesterday but the information office told us that service was no more and there were only the private coaches who all charge about €22 per person. So decided it would be better to take one from outside our site at Pompeii, back on the train but our tickets would not let us onto the platform even though it was within the 24hours so perhaps they were for using on the buses only, the Pompeii station did not have barriers so did not stop us getting on the train. So bought to tickets and on to the train back, but didn’t notice that the train had a different destination suddenly realising it was wrong when the train went underground. Quickly off the train to wait for one back then sitting on the platform waiting for the correct train another passenger who heard our conversation told us we were on the wrong platform, oops! On to the right platform and then the correct train then we noticed that the Volcano was completely covered in cloud so a bit of a waste of time going up today. So decided to give it a miss and get packed up to move on. We were both getting a bit fed up with cities, trains,buses and ruins and wanted to get out into the Italian countryside.
While emptying down and filling with water we met a really nice French couple from Montpellier and told them where to stay at Rome and what train tickets etc. then Steve gave them a quick course on the TomTom because they didn’t know how to navigate to the co-ordinate we had given them for the site we stayed at. Swapped email addresses to hopefully meet up again.
Left the site at about 11:30 heading towards the north coast via Foggia. Lots of very tight roads and one way systems getting out of the Pompeii area then we came across a Lidl so stopped for re-stocking. When we came to pay ther couldn’t accept credit cards only debit which we didn’t have with us so just had enough cash to pay, must find a good hole-in-the-wall now as we are completely out of cash. Stopped for lunch in their car park and Steve found some wifi to download some more sites on to the TomTom. Onwards and found some good motorway standard roads but with 50kph speed limit so causing another traffic jam by sticking to it, the upside of these low speed limits is that we are getting over 25mpg which is the best we have ever done. At about 6pm we found what seemed to be an abandoned holiday park beside the road which will be a nice parking spot for tonight. Then Steve found one of our extra security locks had jammed which is necessary to keep us secure at night so he had about an hours fiddling to sort it out. It uses the hollow type of key which had somehow left the key ways misaligned. All sorted eventually so locked up for a secure night.