Friday, October 20th, 2000 Exploring ruins and Rome...
In the car by 8:15 am. No breakfast, there were no tour groups last night so they didn’t serve breakfast this morning. It was a quiet night. Foggy outside, but some visibility and soon the sun was out as we headed south towards Ercolano or Herculaneum. It’s an old town like Pompeii that was destroyed during the Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD. But this one had a mud flow which filled the houses and preserved them better. Many of the roofs and second floors are still there. It was smaller in size and the homes were generally holiday houses for the wealthy families. Fewer store and no business to speak of. Streets were used for walking as there was no need to have chariots and wagons with merchandise. It was near the seashore and similar to our Newport Beach in California.
We spent about two hours exploring the ruins. Very interesting, could easily spend all day there to see it all. Also, a visit to the museum in Naples is scheduled for a future trip as many of the artifacts from both this site and Pompeii are there.
Left about 12:30 and headed towards Rome to walk through the “Sacri Porta”. There is a door on the right side of St. Peter’s that is only opened every twenty-five years. People who walk through it receive some special indulgences from the church. Yes...we verified that this is true! We followed the instructions for parking from our Canadian friend, Sean, in Florence. They were perfect. By 3:15 pm we were parked on the street within five minutes of St. Peters. We entered from the Left Portal. One problem; when we arrived the doors were shut and they were turning people away! Soooo many people wanting to enter the church and the doors were closed shut! Lucky us…we do have the ability to come back tomorrow. They had closed the doors to St. Peters just as we had arrived because they were preparing for a Mass being celebrated at 6:00 pm for only invited guests.
But we made good use of our time. Used the toilettes, purchased post cards and stamps at the Vatican Post Office to write tonight and bring back to mail tomorrow. Took some photos and headed back to the car. Talked with a priest in the Piazza about tomorrow and he said they had a Papal Visit scheduled for tomorrow morning so it would probably be closed until noon or 1 pm. He was very nice. We asked him if he spoke English. He had on a roman collar and was rather young looking. He answered, “yes, very well.” He was from Boston and is in Rome studying. Has three more years. When we told him we were from California he said he had a classmate who is in Orange County. We said that’s where we’re from and he asked what parish. Said his friend is at St. Monica’s.
Decided that Ostia Antica would probably be closed by the time we arrived; so we decided to drive to Orvieto and check out the town and our hotel for Saturday night. Left Rome about 4:08 and exited the Ring at 5:03. Pretty good driving. Even stopped at a Rome ATM within that time! Couldn’t believe how Jim backed out of that parking place in the middle of rush hour traffic! A lady standing on the street was shaking her head as she watched! I’ve decided the best bet is to just close my eyes and let him drive. He is really good at Italian driving…..I’m just not a very good passenger! Arrived at Orvieto just after 6 pm. Good thing we checked as the layout was much different than what we expected.
Checked things out and then headed back to the hotel at Cassino. Stopped along the autostrassa and purchased some pieta bread sandwiches to eat on the way home. Seemed to take forever to get home. The road is very dark. Very few lights on the road and it goes through the middle of nowhere! But we finally arrived about 9 pm.
When we walked in to the hotel the counter was full of keys….they were expecting a tour group any minute. We hurried to take our showers before they arrived and all wanted to take their showers….who knows about the hot water! They were here within fifteen minutes of our return. Our room had not been touched all day. So I made the bed and went downstairs to request some clean bath towels. Took a while and lots of sign language, but I finally got the towels. Wrote my postcards for tomorrow, downloaded photos and finished my journals. Time to read my book before turning out the lights. I can hear the people up and down the hall settling in for the night.