ONE FAMILYS POSITANO EXPERIENCE
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Hello Everyone, we are now in Rome, and finally have internet access again. Our week in Positano was wonderful, in a very nice villa where we had room to spread out and beautiful views out over the Gulf of Salerno. We did laugh though at the description of the house as having only a “few steps to the beach.” We gave up counting at around 200, but my estimate is that it was about 350 steps to the beach. Positano is called ‘the vertical city,’ and boy do our heels and knees and hips feel it, stairs, stairs, stairs. But it was beautiful, and we did really enjoy the beach– on the best day we all submerged ourselves and really swam, and we rented a kayak/canoe kind of plastic thing and tooled around for a while off the beach, Spencer and Katie each taking a turn. Carman did a fun touristy thing and had herself custom-made leather sandals down at the beach, and she loves them (and thanks Rosanne for supporting this expense!).
One evening Carman and I left they boys with grandad and nancy, sleeping, and we went to the chic Positano nightclub, Music on the Beach, and danced for a few hours– even dancing for a bit with a pair of newlyweds still in their wedding dress and tuxedo, who turned out to be from Tucson!
On our last day in Positano, we did a ferry trip to Amalfi, another lovely coast town, where we toured the oldest papermill in Europe, and made our own paper from cotton rags, following the traditional process.
Positano was also a great base spot for our two big day trips– Pompeii and Paestum. Well, I should say it was a beautiful base, but not entirely great– the drive in and out of Positano is SO windy and steep that it makes driving difficult, and we had some struggles with carsickness. The Amalfi Coast drive is like Big Sur, but even more narrow, steep, windy, cliffside in its driving, with more tour buses and more traffic than Big Sur. Nuts.
We spent the day Tuesday at Pompeii, and had a 2.5 hour tour with a guide Signor Ettor, a retired schoolteacher. Pompeii is enormous, we were all stunned by how huge it was. There are many destination spots, but there are also hundreds of home foundations, just lined up down long city streets. We saw the forum, the “fast food” restaurants, the baths, the bordello with its famous erotic art to get customers in the mood, (or to be able to point to the services they preferred, if they didn’t speak the language, this being a port after all).
We were glad too that the kids didn’t get too freaked out by the plaster casts of the bodies left under the ashes, which we took a close look at, including one of a dog who couldn’t escape because he was chained. We saw some of the beautiful villas, such as the Villa of the Faun, and we saw a bakery with the grindstones still there. As you tour Pompeii, you keep a watchful and nervous eye on Vesuvius, which looms large above the city.
The kids were excited about Vesuvius, and kept an ear out for birds, having learned that an absence of birdsong was one of the warning indicators of the volcano burst. At the end we walked what seemed a mile to the other side of town and toured the large amphitheater, which the boys ran up and down in the aisles of.
Thursday we went to Paestum, a city originally Greek a few hours south of Pompeii. Rick Steves recommends it as the best set of ancient Greek ruins, particularly temples, found outside of Greece, and goes on to say that there is some good reason to judge these as actually better than any Greek temples in Greece! Because the area silted up, the temples were covered in mud for millennia, and saved from destruction in the middle ages. The drive there was hell, a full two hours on the crazy windy road, and then another difficult hour in traffic through Salerno, but we were not let-down. Paestum is better than Pompeii, less famous for sure, but better!
Much of the ruins are actually Roman, from a later period where they had a city much like Pompeii, so you see the foundations of hundreds of homes, you see the Baths, the amphitheater, the forum, etc. But in and amongst these Roman ruins are three fabulous Greek temples from the fifth and sixth centuries BC.
On one end is a slightly smaller temple to Athena, with a rare topping to the triangular pediment, which looms up high above. It was graceful and elegant, and the girls, Carman, Nancy and Katie, posed in front of it, showing their girl power in support of the great Greek goddess of war and wisdom, Athena.
Then, about a half mile on the other side, are the two side by side temples, one called misleadingly a Basilica, and the other the grandest of them, the Temple of Hera. This temple was built about 30 years before the Parthenon in Athens, and has many of the same architectural techniques, leading one to think that either the Athenians just copied this one, or they had the same engineer/architects on both projects. Truly these temples were breathtaking in their beauty and grandeur. We were there in the daytime, but we could imagine that a nighttime tour would also be spectacular.
We weren’t done with Paestum though. After the ruins, we toured the on-site museum of the discoveries there, which is a big advantage Paestum has over Pompeii– at Pompeii there is no museum as all the findings are an hour north in the Naples museum. But the Paestum museum, though not enormous (actually kind of nice that it is not enormous), has some very nice pieces, including nine vases discovered in the 1950s still containing liquid honey, with marvelous paintings on them, and, best of all, an AMAZING funeral tomb from the 470s BC that was only uncovered in 1968. It is called the Tomb of the Diver, and it is fabulous, the diver being believed to represent the passage from life to death. I will end here with photos from the Tomb of the Diver. Reprinted by Positano Adventure Walks for Positano News.