Pompei: Monte Corvino to Pompei (Thu 20): Ruin Day (Fri 21) - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

March 20, 2014

Pompei: Monte Corvino to Pompei (Thu 20): Ruin Day (Fri 21)

The town in the valley below is Monte Corvina. The small road I camped up above is closed when I descend so far and there's a diversion which looks to be a long way round, so, I ride pass the barrier and continue descending round two more corners until I come to where the road is totally blocked off by a mound of soil. I get off and push the bike into the olive grove at the side, assuming all I've to do is push the bike around and continue. But on the other side I see why the road has been closed and traffic diverted. There's been a landslide and the road ahead is in the olive grove, a tangle of broken asphalt and twisted crash-barrier.

Monte Corvino is just the beginning. Then there is Battipaglia and one town merges into next; for over thirty kilometres I'm riding along rough uneven urban roads to the port city of Salerno, by which time the traffic is reduced to a crawl. There are lots of scooters which are the only thing getting through the gaps. Then in Salerno there are quite a few cyclists, mainly the lycra-clad racing-bike variety, which get through the gaps in traffic no bother. I knew Salerno is near the coast, but I kind of forgot with the stress of riding in this traffic until in the centre I see the seafront and ferry terminal. And ahead a mountainous headland out to the sea and a major road propped on stilts high-up across the near vertical slope, which can only be the motorway. I worry that this is the only way onwards. But when I ride around to the ferry terminal where there's an access ramp up, I see as well as trucks driving up, two racing cyclists riding up too, so follow suit.

A couple of hundred metres up there's a turnoff where they go. It leads onto an old road. How relieved I feel. It begins at a village with a row of houses on the inside against the slope and a view out to sea; then climbs steeply up and around the headland, where more cyclists pass, some greeting me with Ciao. Eventually on reaching the plateau above, there's another town: the beginning of yet more continuous urban sprawl. But then at a mini-roundabout, I'm glad to see a sign for Pompei. Then follow signs for Pompei for at a few mini-roundabouts; somehow though, I lose my way, and after asking the way to Pompei of a few local people, get there in the end at two-thirty.

There's a main plaza with a church and a street leading off with stalls all-along selling souveers and printed tee-shirts of Jim Morrison. I ask one of the stall-holders where I can find a cheap hotel. The man directs me across the plaza which is an extremely pleasant place in the afternoon sun, with lots of tourists and people relaxing at cafes. I enter the street on the other side as instructed and I'm just a couple of doors along when a couple on a balcony above, which happen to be a guesthouse, call out to me in English. They come down stairs and offer me a room for thirty euros, plus breakfast. I tell then Is thinking more about twenty. The man looks at his wife and asks is that fine. She nods in agreement. So twenty it is.

"It could blow-up again anytime. Its the best watched mountain in the whole world" so says the Dutch woman at breakfast the next morning and continues "I come here often. The last was in January when there wasn't so many people, but now its only March and the town is full of visitors already. They bring an awful revenue in for the Italian government, which no doubt needs it at present"

According to the booklet sold to me by the guesthouse owner, Mount Vesuvius did explode just before noon on the 24th of August 79 AD, sending a huge plume of smoke many kilometres high into the sky and turning day into night. In the hours and days which followed, poisonous gases descended upon Pompei, suffocating every living thing. Then ash and pumice fallout rained down. Inhabitants that had escaped the gas by staying in their houses where crushed when the roofs caved in under the weight of volcanic material. In the end the city became completely buried and forgotten until 1582, when an arquitec was having a channel dug and discovered a house wall. So began the long process of uncovering the lost city.

A pedestrian crossing and wheel ruts
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Street corner.
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Garden of a Roman merchant's house.
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A bakery. The oven on the left is the same design still used to this day in Italy for baking pizza. On the right is a wheel for grinding corn.
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The bath house.
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A plaster cast of a corpse found in the rubble.
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Entering the Amphitheaterer.
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Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 12,481 km (7,751 miles)

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