A Travellerspoint blog

Day 33

Arrivederci & grazie, Firenze!

overcast 16 °C
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Not a lot going on today, but I wanted to get the photos I lost when my camera broke so went back over to Oltrarno and to Clet Abraham's studio - which was closed this time unfortunately. He has re-imagined a number of the street signs on the way to his studio though, and here's a sampling of his work:

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This is his studio:
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And this sign is for sale inside - no doubt, it's at least 700 euros:
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It's one of my favourites!

Another street artist, Blub, creates art by adding a diving mask and snorkel to a character or famous portrait, and some bubbles, then sticks the posters on the street walls. The only drawback is that this makes them easy to damage or remove, and many have been partially removed.

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Blub's portrait of Clet Abraham, on the wall just outside Abraham's studio

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Leonardo by Blub

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Freddy Mercury by Blub

Exit/Enter spray paints these cute little characters on the walls - usually (but not always) near the entrance or exit of small side streets and alleys
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While I was over that side of the river, I noticed this white heron fishing in the Arno, under the Ponte alla Grazie, so here are the animal shots for the day:

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And here's the edgy shot - just his/her feet from a take-off (quite proud of this one!):
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And the laugh of the day - these are coat hooks for children. Inappropriate, much?
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Final look at the gold ball on the Duomo - say goodbye!
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Hopefully back in NZ on Saturday, but Lufthansa staff are on strike, so one of my flights is cancelled. Yay!

Posted by judesbucketlist 23:00 Archived in Italy Tagged birds italy florence street_art arno_river Comments (0)

Day 31 afternoon & Day 32

Pompeii!

sunny 23 °C
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Wow, I have to say that these two days in Pompeii were among the most amazing of my life! To be able to see this place, to tick off one of the most important items on my bucketlist is indescribable. But I'll try anyway... and I know you'll forgive me if I wax lyrical a little too often - if you can't cope, just skip over and look at the photos! I took over 250 photos of Pompeii, so the 30 here are only a fraction.

I went into the site at about 2pm on the first day - they close at 5pm at this time of year. Turns out that was a good idea, because the mornings can be crazy busy with tourists. I was able to get some good shots without people getting in the way.

I chose not to have a guide - they're very expensive, and I just wanted to experience the place through my own eyes. The downside (?) to this was that I didn't really know what I was looking at most of the time, but that's how you absorb the places you go, on your own terms. For that reason, some of the photos have an informational caption and some don't.

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Just inside the entrance

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Not far inside, there's a long building they use as a storage area. It's full of amphoras and other items that have been recovered from the buildings - presumably ones that aren't considered important enough, or in good enough shape, to be in the archaeological museum in Naples. And I'm happy about that, even though it's all behind a wire barrier - that you can poke your camera lens through.

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Vesuvius looks a lot different today than it did before the eruption - it used to have a flat top

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Ancient Roman wheelbarrows!

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This was once a wine shop, not a public latrine, in case you were wondering! Those receptacles would have held wine, which would have been scooped out into amphoras or cups for quaffing. There were a lot of wine shops in Pompeii - it seemed every second building was one in some areas!

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The mosaic-tiled entranceway to the House of the Tragic Poet - Cave Canem = Beware of the Dog

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There are drinking fountains throughout the town, all with different "entities" at the spout

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The streets are all paved with these massive basalt rocks. You can see the ruts worn away by the wheels of chariots and wagons. Those extra big rocks that stick up from the roadway are there as pedestrian crossings, so the citizens could cross without getting their feet wet when the streets flooded. They're spaced just the right distance apart so the chariots could still pass through. Must have been a very bumpy ride though, just the same, and I'm not sure how the horses and bullocks would have negotiated those massive rocks!

These following pics are from one of the houses that is relatively well preserved
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Some amphoras in a back room

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Marble table legs from the house of the first guy to stick a knife in Julius Caesar - the inscriptions in the tops of the legs identified that fact

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External view of the amphitheatre in the setting sun

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Internal view of the amphitheatre

Before I went into Pompeii I had started reading "Pompeii - a Novel" by Robert Harris. It's fiction, set during the two days before, and two days during, the eruption of Mt Vesuvius on a hot August day in 79AD. Not sure it was a totally good idea to read it while I was in Pompeii! But it was a good story and gave a human insight into what the people must have gone through, and how ignorant they were of the warning signs (tremors, sulphur odours, etc) leading up to the big one. Read it if you get a chance.

As a bit of an illustration of the people side, there's an exhibition in the amphitheatre on the site, with plaster casts made from the hollows left in the hardened ash by the bodies of some of the people who died in the eruption. Some died from suffocation or crushing from the vast amount of rock and pumice that spewed from Vesuvius during the first day of the eruption, and the rest from the surges of white hot gas and ash that streaked down the mountain. Some would have died in agony, and others wouldn't have known what hit them (hopefully).

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Detail from the exhibition in the amphitheatre

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A case of skeletons in one of the houses

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Cast of an adult in the storage area

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Cast of a child in the storage area

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Of course, not just people died in the eruption. Guess it tells you that not all animals have that sixth sense!

The next day, I was leaving Pompeii in the early afternoon, so I went back inside in the morning. I was so pleased I'd gone up Vesuvius the day before, because the summit was covered with cloud, so you wouldn't be able to see any of the view.

In Pompeii, it wasn't too busy right at the start, and it gave me the opportunity to check out other parts of the 44ha that have been excavated so far (still 22ha to go!)

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Even in the ruins, nature takes its course

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At the entrance of the House of the Faun

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There's ongoing work to stabilise as many of the artefacts as possible

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Along the northern boundary of the site, there's a green belt - this part is at the western end, and is called the Passegiata fuori le mura. Unfortunately, you can't take a "passegiata", because it's closed off. I decided to take a walk around the northern flank - a walk through the trees was an attractive prospect. So off I went (no one else was around), following the map (or so I thought), and slowly proceeded to get lost. Turned out, I somehow managed to end up smack in the middle of the area that is still being excavated. The Italians aren't big on signage, believe me! Thankfully, I came across a couple of guys surveying and got them to show me where I was on the map - I was at the Casina dell'Aquila, which looks over the entire town. So the silk purse/sow's ear thing worked for me again!

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Not many people get to this spot, so I felt quite special gazing across this amazing vista

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In my travels, there were a lot of these guys scampering around & this one stayed still long enough for me to try out the awesome zoom on my new camera. Did I mention that I LOVE my new camera? :-)

I managed to find my way (with directions from the surveyors) back to "civilisation"

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And this is the reason why you want to get off the 'beaten path' in Pompeii, early morning or mid afternoon!

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There are workmen taking care to repair the ruins so they don't become more... ruined

And here's a final view for you to take home:
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Well that's Pompeii ecstatically ticked off, and I'd happily spend even more time there. I wasn't looking forward to the local train to head back to Naples, nor was I looking forward to Naples Circumvesuviana train station! It's a real hole, where you want to look as poor as you can, but in the early afternoon on a week day, with lots of people getting off it felt a lot safer than when it was less populated on Sunday. Made it in plenty of time for the fast train back to Florence, which I was looking forward to - gave me a chance to finish my book, with a new appreciation for the story.

It was lovely to get back to Florence, where the people are nicer, the train station isn't threatening and the mood is much lighter. It felt a bit like coming home. The taxi driver said it had been a crazy day, because of the Pope's visit, and I can believe it - the traffic was still pretty bad!

I'll do one final post for day 33.

Posted by judesbucketlist 14:12 Archived in Italy Tagged italy pompeii vesuvius ancient_ruins archaeology Comments (0)

Day 31 - morning

Up the Volcano

sunny 24 °C
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Today was a big day, so I'm only going to tell you about the morning, and the trip to the top of Mt Vesuvius. In the afternoon I went to Pompeii, and intend to go back tomorrow, so I'll tell you all about it in one hit.

Met a shuttle bus at the Pompeii train station, which took us to meet our mountain transport:

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My seatbelt didn't work, so the driver let me sit in the front seat next to him, which was fantastic. The ride took us through the forest on the lower slopes. The road is paved, but it's so damaged that it may as well not be! It was a very bumpy ride, and it's easy to see why they need these big 4x4 beasts. We passed some cyclists on the way up - I'd hate to do that trip!!

When we got to the drop off point, it was hot and hazy, and there were a few clouds hanging about, but the views were amazing, nonetheless.

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I'm pretty sure this is Pompeii below - easy to lose your bearings, but most of us agreed this was Pompeii

We still had some climbing (i.e. walking upwards) to do - about 700m apparently, though it did feel like quite a bit more!
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The track was good, although you could see it had needed repair in a few places where there had been slips
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The first view of the crater was pretty special
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And the view across to Monte Lattari (Lattari Mountains, north of Sorrento) has to be seen to be believed! I think the haze & clouds made it better...

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Further around the track towards the opposite side of the crater, we could look down on the city of Naples and the Bay of Naples
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Naples looked nice from there, but not so much when you zoom in:
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Yuck!

I was up there to check out the crater, so here's a few snaps of the inside and around the edge:
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Here's the bottom of the crater - don't be disappointed that there's no boiling lava!
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But here's proof that something's still brewing not too far below. Yes, that is steam!
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Discovered there is life up the volcano, albeit not much - heard this little guy scampering around and managed this shot:
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It was pretty amazing being level with the clouds - this one hung around for ages because there wasn't much of a breeze up there
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It was a great way to spend 3.5 hours, and I'd totally recommend it. It wasn't the easiest walk up to the crater, but I've done worse and the pay off is worth it, that's for sure! Even with the haze, the vistas are stupendous, and at the end of the day you're standing on the edge of a massive (and very famous) volcano. I learned about Pompeii and Vesuvius at high school, and this was something I never thought I'd ever get to do. What an experience to remember!

Posted by judesbucketlist 20:02 Archived in Italy Tagged volcanoes italy naples pompeii vesuvius Comments (1)

Day 30

Pompeii or bust!

sunny 24 °C
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Well, there's nothing like a fast train to get you somewhere fast... as long as it's on time! I made sure I got to the station in plenty of time this morning because I didn't want to risk a rush for the train. Turned out, it was 20 minutes late getting in from Milan, so I had plenty of time to twiddle my thumbs - and have a coffee & something to eat.

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The beast - up to 300km/h. Vroooommm!!

Got a look at Mt Vesuvius before even getting to Naples. The countryside is a lot different around here, compared to Tuscany, that's for sure.

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Got into Naples after 2 1/2 hours which is amazing considering it takes about 3 times that by bus. Nothing much to say about Naples - it looks dirty and new, all at the same time. And the train station is nothing to write home about - especially downstairs where you have to take the Circumvesuviana local train to Pompeii. It's grubby and full of graffiti, and doesn't feel safe. I'd hate to have to be there in the evening. Figuring out which station to get off isn't easy either, as the station signs are often illegible with graffiti, or not in the right place. But I did make it, thank goodness.

My hotel is about 500m from the station, which is great. Check out the view on the way:
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I'm staying at Villa Franca, which is more of a guest house, but had fabulous reviews on Expedia. It's old and needs work, but the people are really lovely. I think I'm the only one staying here.

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My room

Dominic, the owner's father, greeted me. He speaks little or no English, but we managed to communicate, thanks to my rusty French and "poco Italiano". He got me a very welcome cold beer when I arrived (it was hot here today), then fed me lunch. Antipasti first: toasted crostone topped with fresh tomato, cured ham wrapped around toothpicks and grilled & a slice of a crustless quiche thing. Nom, nom! And then came the best damn spaghetti with ragu - the tastiest pasta meal I've had here. Then I just sat in the sun for a couple of hours - nodded off once or twice! It's quieter than Florence, could even hear birds singing, despite the train coming through every 30 mins - oh, and the hotel is right next to the tracks but the trains stop before bedtime thankfully!

You'll be wondering why I didn't rush off to see the ruins. I'm leaving that until tomorrow, when I have a full day to make the most of it all. I did head down the road for a bit of a walk to check things out, and could see some of the ruins from the road - could hardly contain my excitement!

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Tomorrow morning I'm going to do the Busvia Vesuviano tour, which is in a 4x4 unimog-type vehicle that goes up Vesuvius to 300m from the top, and then you climb the rest of the way & check out the crater - and the view across the Bay of Naples. Then when it comes back I'll go into Pompeii ruins & while away the rest of the day there.

Posted by judesbucketlist 18:57 Archived in Italy Tagged volcano italy naples pompeii vesuvius Comments (0)

Day 29

Gardens & being annoyed

sunny 20 °C
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Writing this on a fast train on the way to Naples then Pompei for a couple of nights - very exciting!

I realised I hadn't yet seen the main gardens of Florence, and as it was such a gorgeous day, I thought this was just about my last opportunity.
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Like I say, gorgeous day!

I also wanted to see the studio of Clet Abraham, the artist who "re-imagines" street signs, especially around Florence, like this one:
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Cool, eh?

His studio is across the other side of the Arno, and it was open - and he was there, as luck would have it! I did take a photo with him in it, along with the sign that's just outside the studio door, but just after this my camera packed it in, with a "lens error". In checking into it on the net, turns out that's the end of my camera! So all photos for the day were taken with my phone. Later in the day I bought a new one, but unfortunately I lost all the photos I had taken that morning, because I had to reformat the memory card to use in the new camera. Still, I can go back before I head home & take the pics again - hopefully Clet will still be there!

He has gone a bit commercial, which is slightly disappointing considering he's quite the rebel, from the authorities' points of view! You can buy a calendar, and stickers with his art on them, as well as "rescued" signs - one with an arrow that has become Pinocchio's nose was 700 euros! So it stayed there...

I started with the Boboli Gardens, which are behind the Pitti Palace. The autumn colours are great against the blue sky, and the view of Florence from there is spectacular of course! Won't go into too much detail - you can probably work most of it out for yourselves.

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You may be sick and tired of gorgeous views, but I'm not, so here's another one!
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Then I headed to the Bardini Gardens, which are not as old because they had fallen into disrepair and an owner a couple of hundred years ago fixed them up, so they aren't in the Renaissance style. There's a sculpture exhibit of Helga Vockenhuber's work throughout the gardens, mostly of amazingly detailed heads and flowers on the slopes. They contrast nicely with the older statuary.

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The views from there are fabulous too!
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Behind the giant head on the right, there was a young couple snogging - Italian, no doubt!
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In the distance, in the centre-ish right, you can see the facade of the church of San Miniato al Monte - you may remember it from a few weeks ago.
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Posted by judesbucketlist 10:27 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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