Tracy’s Travels in Italy


Enjoy this photo gallery of my travels in Italy, researching for Pompeii: City on Fire. We visited Rome, Venice and Pompeii while there, and pictures specifically of Pompeii and the book's locations begin on the fourth page.
Tracy’s Travels in Italy
Italy

A Mother-Daughter Trip


My research trip to Italy was even more special since I took my daughter Rachel, a senior in high school, with me. The two of us explored Rome, Venice and Pompeii for more than a week, and had a fantastic time.
A Mother-Daughter Trip
Italy

Arriving in Rome


We arrive in Rome early in the morning, find our way to a shuttle service at the airport and begin a two-hour crazy ride through insane European traffic to our hotel. We probably should have paid the extra for a direct taxi, but it was already so expensive, I was trying to save some money. As I have experienced in Cairo, it appears that in Rome stop signs are only suggestions, painted lines are invisible, and the right of way belongs to whomever manages to snatch it. We arrive at our hotel by 10 AM, check into our room, regroup, and head out on the free hotel shuttle to the city, which drops us at the subway terminal. It doesn’t take long to figure out the Metro system and we take it through the city to the stop nearest the Vatican, then walk the rest of the way.
Arriving in Rome
Italy

The Vatican


We start through the Vatican Museum by 1 pm, which is much like any museum but with more, and more important, artifacts.
The Vatican
Italy

Sistine Chapel


The museum ends at the Sistine Chapel, which is truly almost too much to take in. The paintings by Michaelangelo cover the ceiling and walls of this huge room. We have an audio tour of the room on our iPods, and we play them in sync with each other, with earphones. I am glad for the explanation of what we are seeing, but still overawed.
Sistine Chapel
Italy

St. Peter’s Square


When we exit the Vatican, it is pouring. We know that St. Peter’s Basilica is next, but see a long line stretching through the downpour and (shamefully) don’t know enough about the Basilica to determine whether it is worth getting soaked, since we are sans umbrella.
St. Peter’s Square
Italy

The Holy Door


We find a seat on a step, under a sort of portico, and sync up the audio tour again. A few minutes into the track, we eye each other, a slow suspicion of our actual location dawning on us. Turns out we are sitting on the steps, leaning against the “holy door” that the Pope enters only once every 24 years! We are soon chased off, and realize we can go through another set of doors into the Basilica. The long line we’d seen had been to climb to the cupola only.
The Holy Door
Italy

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica


Once we get in, I cannot believe we almost missed it. The place is absolutely incredible. It almost defies description. Again, the audio tour is really wonderful, and it is fun to walk around together learning about the place, simply by listening together to our iPods.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica
Italy

Time to Eat!


After the Vatican, more underground navigation through the city, until we reach our chosen dinner restaurant. We both have giant plates of gorgeous lasagna, which we wolf down, not having eaten all day. Another subway ride to the spot where the shuttle bus will pick us up for the hotel, but we are a bit early, so we walk down the street for some gelato in a little shop. No trouble getting back to the hotel, except we both crash the minute we get on the shuttle bus, and sleep all the way there!
Time to Eat!
Italy

Eating again


We overslept! The 10:00 hotel shuttle we’d planned to catch to the city is already booked, but the receptionist directs us to the nearby bus stop, and we catch a public bus to the Metro station, then get off and wander to find the Pantheon. We’ve had no breakfast and it is getting late. When we see a sign for McDonalds, the idea of American food appeals. It is nearly lunch by this time, so we enjoy our McNuggets outside, sitting in the courtyard of the Pantheon. No matter how much I travel, I never get used to this strange mix of modern and ancient.
Eating again
Italy

Ocular of the Pantheon


The open eye at the peak (the ocular) is a work of art in itself, allowing rain and snow to fall through it to the marble floor with tiny drain holes.
Ocular of the Pantheon
Italy

The Pantheon


The Pantheon – a temple to the Roman gods built in the first century - was part of Augustus Caesar's construction efforts in Rome. The rotunda is surrounded by marble columns and gods sculpted into niches, dim and beautiful and full of echoes of the ancient past.
The Pantheon
Italy

The Colosseum


Our audio tour walks us through the city, past many medieval churches, and then on to the Colosseum, which I’ve been eagerly anticipating. The arena is huge, with most of its flooring gone, revealing the corridors where both animals and gladiators prowled before being released to the public above, hungry for violence. Senators and nobles had the best seats and peasants the highest, bt this was all free entertainment – an effort by the emperor to keep the people happy. In a city nearly entirely supported by the empire and functioning on slave labor, boredom could quickly turn to discontent. It’s an awe-inducing thing, to walk the corridors and seating where spectators watched criminals and religious rebels thrown to lions.
The Colosseum
Italy

Wandering Rome


After the Colosseum, we walk to the Forum area, but it is already too late to get in, as it closes two hours before sunset, which in November means 3:30. I am disappointed, as this was a place I really wanted to see. I know we will be back to Rome in a week, before flying home, so maybe I’ll change plans and get back in time to come here again. And so our evening in Rome begins, starting with a walk down Via del Corso, one of the main arteries through the city. It is so clogged with pedestrians that I believe no cars are allowed, but when a vehicle starts nudging tourists and locals out of its way, I realize that most drivers just don’t other to use this part of the street. We window-shop our way down, then wander off the main road to find a recommended restaurant, and have some pizza at a street-side table. Then we continue to the Capitoline Hill, and climb to see where the city government has been located for 2500 years.
Wandering Rome
Italy

Back to the hotel


We’re ready to call it a night, and glad that we discovered the bus option this morning, since it’s too late for the first evening shuttle to the hotel, and too early for the last. The only problem is, we realize that we never noticed what bus we rode to the Metro station this morning. We can get to the station, but then how do we figure out which of the main buses to take to the hotel? We don’t even know the name of the stop! Several buses are sitting outside our Eur Fermin Metro station when we emerge, their drivers taking smoke breaks in the parking lot. None of them speak English, but “Sheraton?” seems to be understood, and we’re pointed to the correct bus (we hope!) We watch carefully as the bus meanders through the outskirts of Rome, and finally see the hotel come into view. We shouldn’t have worried, as the driver yells out “Sheraton!” when we stop.
Back to the hotel
Italy

Long day


We have planned to do this trip in reverse early tomorrow morning, with our luggage, to reach the train station and then take the express train to the airport. It will be much cheaper than taking a taxi directly to the airport, we know. But we realize two things after talking to the hotel clerk: 1) the buses don’t run early enough to get us to the Metro station on time, and 2) we will be taking the bus/subway/train all the way into the city and then all the way back out again to the airport – a ridiculously circuitous route! He convinces us to get a taxi, and says he will call one for us, to pick us up t 5 AM. We are happy to reach our room, and immediately change our clothes and head down to the indoor pool to soak our aching feet!
Long day
Italy

Day 3 Begins


At 5 AM it is pouring and apparently Italians aren’t used to driving in the rain. It takes the taxi until 5:20 to arrive, and I’m beginning to worry about making our plane. Again, I shouldn’t have. The two hours we set aside to travel to the airport actually takes 15 minutes! Of course, it costs us 45 euro (about $65), which is absolutely horrible.
Day 3 Begins
Italy

Venice!


By 8:30 on Day 3 we have landed outside Venice. We catch the Venezia Express bus over a long land bridge to the edge of the floating-island city. It will be the last vehicle we see for two days. Venice is a city of tiny streets and narrow alleys, with canals criss-crossing all through it, and one “Grand Canal” snaking its way from one side to the other. The entire city is navigated solely on foot or by boat. From the bus drop off, we take the equivalent of the public bus – a waterboat - to the stop nearest our hotel, and get our first glimpse of this elegantly decaying city as we float down the start of the Grand Canal. Indeed, the city seems to be rotting into the strangely opaque blue-green water, and the facades of the grand houses show the wear of hundreds of years, but it is enchanting.
Venice!
Italy

View from our room in Venice


We reach our stop in about fifteen minutes, pull our luggage through the cobbled streets and locate our hotel, which is really a small door in an even smaller alley. In fact, our room is not even in this small alley, and after check-in, the desk clerk takes us on a walk through a few more streets to the building that houses our room.
View from our room in Venice
Italy

Off to sightsee


It is chilly and rainy, but we’re eager to explore. We abandon our room quickly to find San Marcos – the square that holds St. Mark’s Church, and the start of our audio tour. The rain is a steady drizzle, but we put up our hoods and get out there, determined to see as much of Venice as we can in spite of the weather. It would be nearly impossible to find our way through Venice (even with our map), without the signs on every corner that say “Per Rialto” (to the Rialto Bridge) or “Per S. Marco” (to San Marcos). The city is an absolute maze of streets and alleys, many of which dead-end into a canal. Some take you over bridges, others open onto squares that hold another half-dozen options for which way to go next. We just keep following the signs to San Marcos.
Off to sightsee
Italy

Shop windows


I find that already I cannot stop taking photos. Every turn is a discovery of some quaint alley, picturesque bridge, or colorful shop window. Venice is a city of colors. The island of Murano just across the lagoon, technically part of Venice, is famous for glass-making, and indeed Venetian and Murano glass have been prized for centuries. We see shop windows filled with this beautiful glass jewelry. Beside the glass, the shops boast collections of brightly-colored masks (a symbol of Venice and its yearly carnival), colorful pastas and candies, and baked items iced with pastels. In the dreary weather, these displays seem to glow with an inner light, and Rachel begins to laugh at all the pictures I’m taking.

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Shop windows
Italy

City of Water


Many of the narrow streets have long, low tables set up down the length of them. We soon find out why. When we reach the huge, historic square we find it partially flooded. The tables are actually walkways above the flooding, as this happens often in November.
City of Water
Italy

Piazza San Marcos


We make our way down through the center of the square, where it isn’t flooded. The water gets a bit deeper but we press on toward the church. Then somehow we find ourselves stranded on a fence around a huge iron column, with the water ankle deep everywhere. It’s actually quite funny, and we perch there for several minutes, unsure what to do. Finally there is nothing but to make a run for it, and the water pours into our sneakers before we reach the first platform walkway.
Piazza San Marcos
Italy

St. Mark’s


We take this walkway around to try to get into the church, inching along behind the crowds, but soon realize the line ahead of us is making a u-turn, as the church is apparently closed. Now what? We listen to our audio tour for a few minutes, until the guide tells us to walk in a direction that is impossible, given the flooding, and then we turn it off and decide to abandon the plan. We are wet and cold and tired, and suddenly nothing sounds better than a hot shower and a nap. Back to the hotel!
St. Mark’s
Italy

Rainy night


It is late afternoon before we venture out again. Nearly dark, and raining fairly hard. We read in the guidebook that there is a cinema nearby. We find it eventually and duck out of the rain, only to find that all the American movies they are playing are dubbed in Italian, with no subtitles. There seems to be some irony in that. So, what does one do in Venice in the rain? We have no idea, and in fact go and get my laptop and head down to the hotel’s check-in building to get a wireless signal and search the internet for advice. We find nothing. In Venice, you walk the streets, you shop, and you ride the canals. Hmmm…. I begin to despair that we are doomed to an evening in our tiny, no-so-comfortable room.
Rainy night
Italy

Opera?


There is a poster facing me, though. An advertisement for a concert in town, baroque and opera with costumed performers. In this city that opened the first-ever opera house in 1637 and hosted such great composers, it seems like a fitting way to spend a rainy evening, though admittedly not my daughter’s first choice. She is agreeable, though, and so we find some good, hot pizza, and then head toward the concert hall. (It occurs to me that at this point that besides McNuggets, we have had only had four actual meals in Italy with lots of snacking between our travels, and those four meals have been: lasagna, pizza, pasta, pizza. Neither of us is tired of it yet!)
Opera?
Italy

Aaahhh… Hot Chocolate


The performance is held in Venice’s most prestigious concert hall. We buy our tickets, then wander off to kill some time before the performance. A hot drink sounds good, and we find a bakery that serves hot chocolate. In Italy you order at the counter and then stand at the bar and drink your coffee, so we ask for some hot chocolate and stand nearby waiting for it. When it’s served, it’s no Swiss Miss. Our cups are filled with what looks to be a bar of melted dark chocolate. Amazing! We sip it slowly, thinking it might be the best thing we’ve ever tasted, then head back to the concert hall.
Aaahhh… Hot Chocolate
Italy

Opera = Love


It’s not a large place, and the seats are basically folding chairs set up on the floor, but the acoustics are fantastic, and the concert is wonderful. I love operatic music, and the soprano, baritone and tenor that perform are delightful. They and the musicians wear eighteenth-century costumes, and sitting in this old concert hall, knowing I’m in the center of Venice, I can almost pretend that it is the eighteenth century. It is mainly Puccini, Verdi, and Rosselini tonight. I absolutely love it. I take a few pics, and even use my camera to video, indulging my fondness for tenors.
Opera = Love
Italy

Relaxing after the concert


After the concert we’re still in the mood for wandering, even though it’s late. The rain has eased, and it’s fun to see the city at night, with its rain-slicked cobblestones and murky alleys. We are soon cold again, and decide that we really must have another cup of hot chocolate! We find a sit-down café and enjoy a slightly different, but still wonderful cup. It’s been a different day than I would have planned, and greatly affected by the rainy weather, but still it’s been grand, and we return to our hotel, ready for sleep.
Relaxing after the concert
Italy

Wandering Venice


The sky over Venice is a bit brighter this morning, and I’m hopeful we can get in some more sightseeing before leaving after lunch for our flight to Naples. In fact, we are able to take in quite a bit. Lots more wandering, our audio tour, some shopping, a gondolier ride, a few dozen more pictures taken, and lunch in an adorable place beside the canal (pizza and ravioli, what else?).
Wandering Venice
Italy

On the Rialto Bridge


The pictures tell the tale best. Venice is a city to be seen, not read about.
On the Rialto Bridge
Italy

Grande Canal


We finish the morning by walking back to San Marcos, then out to the canal. We are at the end of the canal here, and we get the water boat for a cruise all the way back to the beginning. We do make one stop about 2/3 of the way along, to dash to our hotel, retrieve our luggage, and dash back to the water boat before our one-hour tickets expire. Our last views of Venice are from the Grande Canal.
Grande Canal
Italy

Traveling again…


Then the tedious part of international travel begins again – navigating ourselves to the right bus for the airport, checking luggage, waiting for the plane (late), a short flight to Naples, finding the bus from the airport to the train station, finding the train to Sorrento, a one-hour train trip, then figuring out how to get to our hotel from the train station. I am learning that much of one’s time traveling outside the United States is spent in this way – figuring things out and getting around. It helps if you research and plan ahead of time, but there are always variables. The guide book may sound as though a bus stop is easily found, but in fact (as happens tonight in Sorrento) it may take you an hour of wandering dark streets and asking people who don’t speak English to help you find it. In the end, we are unsuccessful and go back to the train station to hopefully get the bus that comes only once or twice an hour.
Traveling again…
Italy

Where is the bus?


We wait (not sure we’re in the right place) for a half hour, and then decide that we will walk to the hotel. It should be about a 20 minute walk, and we have a good map. The downside is that we are dragging luggage, and it’s 11:00 at night. But I refuse to pay 20 euro ($30) for a five minute taxi ride. We start down the hill toward the main street in town, our luggage rolling along with us. At this point a blue bus pulls up. We are waiting for an orange bus, but I decide to ask the driver if he knows where the correct bus might be, even though drivers here rarely speak English. He asks where we are going, and I tell him Capo de Sorrento – the hill of Sorrento. “Si, Capo,” he says, and indicates his bus. Seriously? We were within thirty seconds of leaving this area, and this is the right bus, finally? We get on, and within five minutes we have reached our tiny hotel. By the way, “Capo” must mean “big hill” in Italian, and I realize along the way that dragging our luggage up and up this windy, lonely road in the dark would have been insane!! I breathe a prayer of thanks for being spared from my own foolishness.
Where is the bus?
Italy

Hotel Elios


This small pensione is of course, locked up for the night. But someone comes immediately at our knock, and we are greeted warmly by our hostess Maria (in her bathrobe) and her twenty-something son, Luca. She asks if we’ve eaten, which we have not except for vending machine cookies hours ago, but there is nothing open at this hour. In pity, she gives us a couple of containers of coconut yogurt, which is very kind. Do we need hot water tonight? Because she’s already turned it off. No. We are grateful for the tiny room and the bed, and soon collapse.
Hotel Elios
Italy

Positano, Amalfi Coast


Wanting a break between our travel day and the big day of exploring Pompeii, we’ve planned a simple sightseeing day to the Amalfi Coast and the little village of Positano. We take a public bus from a stop near our pensione along the winding, vertigo-inducing coastline.
Positano, Amalfi Coast
Italy

Positano


We are dropped off at the top of this picturesque little town, which we wander for several hours. We wait out a cloudburst in a wifi café and check email, then go down to the beach to find a little restaurant and get some lunch. (Pizza. Yes. I will admit it.)
Positano
Italy

Positano


Then more wandering Positano in a lovely, relaxing day.
Positano
Italy

Evening in Sorrento


When we get back via bus to Sorrento we spend a bit of time in town, and then find a little grocery store to buy some things for breakfast and snacks. Afterwards, we find the nearest bus stop, but the bus schedule here in Sorrento is still a mystery, and we have little confidence that one is actually coming for us. Our resolve is further tested when it begins to pour yet again. We knew November was the rainy season in Italy. Indeed.
Evening in Sorrento
Italy

Pompeii, at last


The next morning, we get the bus to downtown Sorrento once more, then take a train a few stops north to the ruins of Pompeii.  We enter the city through the Porta Marina Gate, eager to begin exploring the place we've come to Italy to see! It’s a wondrous place, frozen at the moment Vesuvius erupted, excavated nearly two millennia later to reveal its secrets. [Spoiler alert! The following pictures reference events and locations in Pompeii: City on Fire, so if you haven't finished reading the novel, you may want to come back when you're done!]
Pompeii, at last
Italy

Plaster casts


One of the first things we see is the section of the Forum fenced off to contain many of the plaster casts made of actual victims. It's a poignant way to begin our exploration - remembering that people lived and loved and died here, some in horrific ways. Later, when I'm writing Pompeii: City on Fire, I'll draw on some of these plaster casts for inspiration for characters.  [You'll find this character in Chapter 53].

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Plaster casts
Italy

The Basilica


Also in the Forum, at the end, is the Basilica. This structure was not a church as the name might seem to imply, but more like the "law offices" of the town. Later churches were designed to imitate the architecture, and thus called "basilicas." This sheltered area is where Ariella and Micah hide in Chapter 44.
The Basilica
Italy

In the Forum


This picture was taken in the Forum, looking toward Mt. Vesuvius. THe columns behind me are what remain of the Temple of Jupiter and the Capitolium, at the north end of the Forum.
In the Forum
Italy

The Forum Baths


Inside the Forum Baths, in the apodyterium, where Cato meets with the city leaders in Chapter 22.
The Forum Baths
Italy

Forum Baths – ancient hot tub


This is the calidarium - the hot baths - where Cato talks politics with the city leaders in Chapter 22.
Forum Baths – ancient hot tub
Italy

House of the Dancing Faun


The House of the Dancing Faun has been so-named by archaeologists for the statue of dancing faun in its atrium. This is the house I used as the inspiration for Cato's villa.
House of the Dancing Faun
Italy

Temple of Isis


One of the temples of Pompeii, unique since Isis is actually an "imported" god from Egypt, which was rather fashionable at the time.
Temple of Isis
Italy

Street of Pompeii


A typical Pompeii street, including the large stepping stones from one sidewalk to the other, to raise pedestrains out of the daily rush of water that cleaned the streets. One could easily get lost in the city, and we rely on our audio tour to guide us past fountains on every major corner, over stepping stones and through scattered temples. We feel an unexpected kinship with the past as we take in shops and restaurants, houses with frescoes like wallpaper, gardens, athletic centers, theaters and swimming pools.
Street of Pompeii
Italy

Thermopolium – ancient fast food


A thermopolium, the ancient equivalent of a fast food counter, where Cato stops for dinner in Chapter 16.
Thermopolium – ancient fast food
Italy

The Palaestra


This is the palaestra, the city's main location for athletic training, alongside Cato's vineyard and the arena.
The Palaestra
Italy

The Arena


The Pompeii Arena, the oldest known Roman amphitheater, at the end of town. This is where Ariella fights in the games.
The Arena
Italy

Arena – outer staircase


Outer staircase of the arena, leading to the seats on the upper levels.
Arena – outer staircase
Italy

The Arena


Another view of the arena
The Arena
Italy

Pompeii Arena Corridor


Inside the Pompeii Arena, in one of the corridors where Arielle waits for her turn in the games in Chapter 24.
Pompeii Arena Corridor
Italy

Inside the Arena


Rachel and I in the center of the Pompeii arena, with one seating area behind us.
Inside the Arena
Italy

Gladiator entrance


Looking toward the end of the arena, to the gladiators' entrance.
Gladiator entrance
Italy

Gladiator training barracks


The quadriporticus, the city's older palaestra was converted into barracks and a training yard for gladiators. It adjoined the city's theater, and this is where Cato and Portia stroll during the theater intermission in Chapter 5, where he first sees Ariella.
Gladiator training barracks
Italy

Gladiator training barracks


Another view of the gladiator barracks and training yard. Ariella's cell is located along its perimeter.
Gladiator training barracks
Italy

Municipal Building


Municipal Buildings in the Forum, where Cato registers for the election in Chapter 23
Municipal Building
Italy

Pompeii Theater


The theater, where plays were performed and speeches made. Cato and his family attend a play here in Chapter 5, and here is where Cato makes his election speech in Chapter 34.
Pompeii Theater
Italy

Street of Tombs


Along the Street of Tombs, on the way to the Villa of the Mysteries, the basis for Maius's house.

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Street of Tombs
Italy

Villa of the Mysteries


A fresco in the Villa of the Mysteries, the basis for Maius's house. This house is thought to have belonged to someone involved in the mystery rites of the Bacchanalians.
Villa of the Mysteries
Italy

Villa of the Mysteries


A fresco in the Villa of the Mysteries - the basis for Maius's house.
Villa of the Mysteries
Italy

The Pompeii Forum


Back in the Forum Pompeii, with Vesuvius behind me.  I feel as though I have soaked in every bit of the city through every sense, through ever pore, through my video and still camera lenses, just trying to absorb it all.
The Pompeii Forum
Italy

Mt. Vesuvius


Vesuvius from the Forum, as the sun sets on our fabulous day here.  With a little imagination, we could believe those clouds are the beginning of an eruption...
Mt. Vesuvius
Italy

More adventures


It’s dark by the time we hop a bus back to our hotel, and we realize with dismay that the bus isn’t stopping. What to do? Will it loop? Or go on for hours? We decide to bail one stop beyond the  Via Capo – the top of the hill.  We wait for a long time for another bus to come along to take us back, but eventually get sick of waiting,  and start walking back to the Via Capo. It’s a dark, winding road with a cliff wall up the side of it. Vines are hitting us in the face as we walk and there is little clearance for cars. Apparently I have not learned the lesson of the night of our arrival. It takes us more than thirty minutes to get back to the previous stop, and for most of it I’m thinking we will be mugged or flattened. At least I have the tripod, which would make a good weapon! Finally we reach the Via Capo stop.  The bus pulls up immediately, but alas, it’s time for his break. We sit on the bus for another fifteen minutes before he comes back to take us to our hotel. We probably could have walked to our stop by then, I mention.  Rachel is not amused.    
More adventures
Italy

Herculaneum


Back down to Sorrento, the train toward Naples. We are getting to be pros. We get off at Herculaneum, a town near Pompeii that was also destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius. Unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum did not receive the layers ash fall, instead the pyroclastic surge of molten rock and mud buried the city in minutes.
Herculaneum
Italy

Naples Museum


After Herculaneum we take the train to the Naples Museum, which houses monstrous amounts of Greek and Roman art. We are astonished at the level of detail preserved in some of these sculptures, and the size of some of them.
Naples Museum
Italy

Exploring a volcano


  Back on the train to the Pompeii stop, but this time we catch a bus near the ruins, which takes us partway up Mt. Vesuvius.  I have heard the term “hairpin turn” before, but never seen it so literally.  We take a series of 180-degree u-turns up the mountain, each one of which feels like the bus is swinging so wide we will go over the edge. When we alight, the temperature has dropped considerably.
Exploring a volcano
Italy

Climbing Mt. Vesuvius


The bus can’t take you all the way to the top. For that, you must climb. It takes about thirty minutes of criss-crossing up the side. At the approach of each turn, we assure each other that it must be “just around the next bend.” Finally we reach the crater, which is colder and blacker and deeper than I’d expected. Silence reigns here, an eerie silence like the surface of the moon. There is fog everywhere and we are in the clouds. We can’t see off the side of the volcano, and the whole experience is a bit surreal. I wonder how many Pompeiians would have made this climb, without benefit of the bus. Below us, I know, lies the city of Naples. Do they stare up at the mountain and wonder when she’ll rain fire again?
Climbing Mt. Vesuvius
Italy

Atop a volcano


We collect a backpack full of volcanic rocks – souvenirs for my readers – wander around the crater watching the steam hiss out of fissures, and then start our trip back down, timing it to get back to the bus before it leaves. Our calculations prove faulty, and the bus is gone. We sit for awhile in a little shack, eating strange sandwiches while waiting for the next bus, the last of the day, to return us to Pompeii.
Atop a volcano
Italy

Bus #64


Travel day. Up at 7 AM, bus to Sorrento, train to Pompeii where I hop off quick for more souvenirs, then back on the train to Naples, cross the station to another train to Rome, then a local bus to get as close to our hotel as possible. The bus is extremely crowded and uncomfortable, with Italian men pressing far too close for comfort. Bus #64, we later learn from Rick Steves’ guidebook, has quite the reputation. It’s funny to read it after the fact.
Bus #64
Italy

The Forum of Rome


We recognize our location when we get dropped off, and feel like experienced travelers. We drag our luggage over cobbled streets to find our hotel in a back alley. But strangely, it’s the nicest hotel we’ve stayed in yet.  There is no time to waste, though. It’s back out into the city to visit the Forum which we missed last week. My overall impression of the city of Rome is that it is vast, and the average Roman must have felt very small among all those temples and columns and arches. Rome was definitely built to impress. It’s easy to imagine them here, strolling around or hurrying off to some meeting or speech.  The different emperors just kept building, each trying to outdo the last. It reminds me of the temple complexes in Karnak, where the Egyptian temple kept expanding through successive Pharaohs. Indeed, the Romans were fascinated with ancient Egypt, which was already ancient to them, and considered very fashionable. They appropriated both the gods and the decorative features of that civilization.
The Forum of Rome
Italy

Arch of Titus


I'm especially moved by the Arch of Titus - erected to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In the picture, you can see the Arch of Titus behind my right shoulder, and the Colosseum in the background, where many Christians reputedly met their deaths.
Arch of Titus
Italy

Under the Arch


Inside the Arch of Titus, commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem. Notice the menorah.
Under the Arch
Italy

The Trevi Fountain


After exploring the Forum, we head toward the other touristy places like the Trevi Fountain, where tradition has it that if you toss a coin into the water and wish to return to Rome, someday you will.
The Trevi Fountain
Italy

The Spanish Steps


On the Spanish Steps, I have to eat an ice cream cone, like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Fun.
The Spanish Steps
Italy

Campo di’ Fiori


We reach the Campo di’ Fiori – our destination for dinner – and eat our meal at an outdoor restaurant, seated below an ancient façade incorporated into a modern building. After dinner I realize that it’s the beginning of the theater of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was assassinated. We spend the evening shopping for souvenirs, then come back to the square to people watch and enjoy one last hot chocolate.
Campo di’ Fiori
Italy

We Love Italy!


Our time in Italy has come to an end, and tomorrow we fly home, heads and hearts full of history and memories. Rachel, you were a wonderful travel partner! I had such fun with you and am so glad for the memories of laughter, learning and adventure that I will always treasure!

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We Love Italy!
Italy
© Copyright Tracy L. Higley