Buongiorno! Andiamo Salerno!
Today is going to be a great day! We have private family tours lined up for Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. We grab breakfast at the buffet, which is okay, there are a lot of offerings and it is quick. The buffet is near the top deck, and we have to hustle down to Deck 4 to disembark.
As we walk down the ramp, we see people holding signs. Always a comfort when on a foreign country, seeing your driver holding up a sign with your name. Actually there are two drivers, as we must split between two vehicles. Our first stop is Pompeii. Our friendly driver secures a site tour guide for our little group.
As I am not entirely sure about the little one being at Pompeii, I brought along her paints and markers just in case we need an alternate activity. But our guide is perfect, he is knowledgeable and friendly, and he takes a liking to our little one. His English is very good, and his accent is charming. Of course, the weather is crazy hot and humid. At least one person out of the nine of us is likely heat fatigued at any time. Fortunately no one is outwardly grumpy.
Walking through the village of Pompeii is really kind of trippy. I remember having seen a television mini-series about the volcano when I was a child, and that freaked me out. I understand that at some point the plaster casts of bodies in distress were on display throughout the site, that is no longer, thankfully. Being in the village and observing how some structures are still standing is mind-blowing. Our friendly tour guide is knowledgeable about the society and compares it to our own. Theaters, marketplace, hot food vendors, etc. He does purposefully distract our youngest child as we walk through what was the brothel. (I don’t even think the older kids were paying attention to what it was.) He teaches her how to be a tour guide and she tells us where to go next. We pass by the ruins of hot food vendors and they enact the marketeer selling a dish of hot food. She asks for macaroni and cheese, of course. He smiles and explains that they didn’t even have potatoes back then. We snap some cool pics of the kids in the street, but they are not really “with” us. Near the end of our tour is the area where we can observe the plaster casts of the bodies, so our guide bonds with the little girl again. Seeing the plaster casts of bodies is most unsettling- we see a baby, a dog, and of course, adults in their moments of death- some in prayer. I am glad the 7 year old is not with me as I tour this last area. My ten-year old says it makes her sad. But it is important to honor the history and culture. We return to collect our daughter who is now forever friends with our tour guide David, he has taken a photo of her Italy flag-painted nails and requested her permission to post it on his Facebook page. She gleefully agrees and pretends to sign her name on an invisible contract a la the Little Mermaid. In the forum we observe the Mount Vesuvius in its post-eruption state, and I try to imagine it as it was in its full glory. It’s not hard to imagine this sweet village populated. It is more than a little sad.
Now we return to the vehicles and drive the Amalfi coast. Our drivers are courteous and friendly. Each moment offers postcard-picturesque views, the blues and hues of the water kissing the beaches, rocks, and quaint little towns. We stop for pictures at a lookout before Positano, such an amazingly beautiful scene. I am delighted as this town especially, reminds me of one of my favorite novels which I reread every year. The Miracles of Santo Fico by D.L. Smith takes place in a fictional village, much like this one- off a winding road, steps and hills, houses that seem to tumble into the sea. Tour busses cannot enter the town of Positano, as the streets are too narrow. But we have two Mercedes cars, so we are good. Our drivers bring us in as close as they are allowed. And we walk down the rest of the way. I half expect to see my beloved characters from Santo Fico around every bend. In a way, I do. For there are shop owners, villagers, restauranteurs and children among the tourists. The long incline includes many steps, some ramps, some streets. We are descending in droves- down, down, down. And it’s hot, hot, hot. I’m loving this, and I’m looking forward to our special lunch ahead, but I am also thinking about how Dante descended to the depths of hell in the Inferno.
Soon we arrive at the bottom, where we have reservations at a restaurant on the beach. They are full, so the seat us outside, but there is some shade and more importantly, there is a big industrial fan sweeping the area. Our long table includes a pillowed bench at one end, this is where my daughter chooses to sit. She’s so cute in her aqua hat, perched among the blue and yellow throw pillows. Ordering water is always a bit confusing, as two of our party prefer the bubbly bottled water, some prefer bottled water, and some of us prefer tap. I order gnocchi, which almost seems a bit silly as it is so hot, but it is delicious and I am so glad I do! I buy souvenirs at a cute store across the street. The cashier offers a friendly extra-loud “Bye-Bye!” as I leave, which strikes me as funny. I wonder what the villagers think of us.
As we walk back up, there are more people coming down. There are even some small vehicles coming around the bends. For all the crazy driving we have seen, we have never observed any accidents, so I guess that is good. We duck into a shop and attack some pastries, we share a cannoli among our family. We pick up more waters here. Some of us switch cars so we can mix up the company. Driving along the coast again, admiring the scenery, I marvel at how the kids (at least the ones in my car) are sleeping.
We board the ship and it is Italian Night! After refreshing, we make our way to the Botticelli dining room where the staff is outfitted in striped gondolier’s shirts. It is only our third night dining, but our head waiter and staff remember our preferences, and even our names. As one of our family has food allergies, the Maitre D’ offers to preview tomorrow night’s menu, so they can prepare anything especially for him. Our family takes up an entire round table. This is a relaxing time for the family, everybody talks with another and the kids are more like themselves, having fun with each other. Maybe that’s why it takes so long. It doesn’t seem like a two hour meal, while we are there. We look at the photos taken on the cruise so far, I pick up another frozen black forest mocha for my evening treat.
Tomorrow is a day at sea. I am looking forward to swimming, my massage at the spa, and also we will need to do laundry. I get some wifi time, and since I didn’t use all my texts today, I can text my friends and family at home tonight. I miss them dearly.