The weather is improving, but it was still mixed so we headed off for Herculaneum arriving early on to a near empty car park. All going well and I am now in Italian driving mode; key here is to be assertive but not aggressive. If there is space you move into it, you don’t wait to be granted permission. Waiting for permission creates confusion within the system. Its the same with using Zebra crossings; stand on the side and no one will stop, step in confidently and they will stop (honest). Then I discovered that the site only takes cash for entry fees during the winter months so I had to go hunting for a ATM. Outside of the site and up the hill I found one but my transaction was declined for technical reasons. Now I hate this, you have no idea if it really is technical or if the machines is trying to politely to say you have no money left in your account. I walked up the hill, no cash point. I turned left by the station and walked a mile to the square around the church, no cash point. I walked down to wards the sea to meet the road to the site, no cash point. I turned right and walked another mile, no cash point. I retraced my steps and found a cash point 100 yards from the original one and it was prepared to dispense money, with many a pause. An hour of walking and worrying (if there was no cash then someone had stolen several thousand pounds in the last day) is not the best start to the day, and all without breakfast.
Of course daughter had left her phone locked in the car so had not received my messages and had been speculating about various reasons for my delay mainly involving my being mugged. Either way, we finally made it in and started the up and down progress that allows you to cover Herculaneum in an hour or two. We resisted the temptation of a guide; the first approached with I am a guide do you want to employ me. The second engaged us in conversation about the site before offering his services. The first was probably more qualified, the second a better salesman!
Now I had been looking forward to this visit. Part of the charm of the site is the intact illustrations and plasterwork in the new houses and I now had a camera that could do justice to the challenge, even on an overcast day. The picture to the right is from the bathhouse. By starting at the top and working down you end up on the coastline where all the bodies were discovered which is probably a suitable ending to the day. The visit over we headed into the town and were the only customers at a Pizzeria for lunch. In August 2008 I queued for an hour to get in!
The weather was improving so we made an instant decision to head south to Paestum, a Greaeco-Roman City and an hour and a half’s drive (well less if you can sort out how to get onto the A3 first time). The three temples here are wonderful and we were lucky with timing. The sun was low in the west creating some wonderful lighting effects which lasted just long enough for us to move around all three. The picture to the left and that which heads this post were all taken there.
Driving back the sun came into its own with a glorious subset offering good weather tomorrow. The guide book says that there are three Michelin three star restaurants in Marina de Cantone so that is our indulgent lunch time destination. Then down the Amalfi Coast, hopefully with the time and parking space to take in each of the small towns. My last experience of this was a nightmare. This time I hope that a January weekday will be less dangerous than a weekend in August!
I used to think it was impossible to get a bad meal in Italy, but last night in the hotel changed my view. So tonight we headed up to the station and to the restaurant pictured. It was a treasure, wonderful Pasta, outstanding fish and a free grappa to finish (the waiter took a shine to Eleanor).
Well the sun came out and I braved the hairpin bends and suicidal drivers ...