Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pompeii & Mt. Vesuvius

Guest Blogger: Michael Mammele 

In Southern Italy there are countless things to do and experiences to be had. I’ve been lucky enough to live along the Amalfi Coast for the past month and a half but recently, I was able to travel farther inland to two sights that are rich in history: the ruins of Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. I embarked on a bus with a group of about 50 people from Amalfi and began the journey to Pompeii.

Pompeii is now ruins of an ancient Roman city that experienced the devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in the year 79AD. The eruption killed over 3,000 people, while over 20,000 fled the city entirely. Upon arriving I was immediately blown away by the vast architecture. It made me think about how incredible it is that nearly 2000 years ago, a structured civilization was able to create such a breathtaking city. The ruins themselves are much like an outdoor museum. Our tour group walked through old palaces, thermal spas, and looked at ancient paintings frozen in time. We walked through the famous amphitheater, completed in 80BC. This site was home to numerous spectacles and gladiator battles. I grew up watching the movie “Gladiator” with Russell Crowe and here I was literally standing on the very grounds that partly inspired the film.

We looked into small cement rooms where the gladiators, who were prisoners, slept. The rooms were no bigger than the average home bathroom; most of them had no roof to protect from rain. Not only was I in amazement at the historical sights I was seeing but I was humbled in the process.

While I loved Pompeii and the ruins, I couldn't wait to start the second half of the day: the climb of Mt. Vesuvius. The bus ride took about 45 minutes from Pompeii and pulled nearly to the top of the mountain, where the group disembarked and climbed the rest of the way. Standing at the top of a volcano was always something I considered to be a “bucket-list” activity, and not a very realistic one at that. Yet, here I stood well over 3000 feet in the air, staring into this massive crater. In fact, massive doesn't even do the size of this beauty justice.

I was surrounded with a jaw-dropping panoramic view over the city of Naples, the Bay of Salerno, and the islands of Capri and Ischia. I could see smoke slowly protruding from the bottom of the crater. I had to pinch myself to realize that I wasn’t dreaming. It was a day that I’m certain I will never forget.

While I met some great people from all over the world, I was truly happy to spend a day by myself and experience a real adventure. While traveling with companions is always pleasant, I think everyone should travel to at least one destination by themselves; it clears your head and gives you a great sense of independence. I couldn't have been happier with how the day turned out, and can't wait for my next adventure.

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