Afternoon in Pompeii and sunset over Sorrento

I had a lazy start to the morning, taking advantage of the breakfast hall at the campsite. Every morning they would play pop music videos during breakfast and I had forgotten how terrible that can be. I don’t think I’lll ever get that awful “World Cup” song out of my head now, you know “show the world where you’re from, show the world that we are one…” gah! After breakfast I headed back to the info point, where the girl helped me to work out what trains would take my bike as I headed to Sorrento today. It seemed that the train form Rome to Napoli would be no problem with rolling the bike on, but the small regional train that ran from Napoli to Sorrento would require me to bag it up again.

I packed my things and headed back down the bike path into the city. I was now familiar well familiar with this route into the city, particularly the little tricks like knowing when to take that unsigned turn and when not to follow that section of the path to avoid being confronted by a flight of stairs or being launched into the Rome traffic. As I said before, it all kind of works, but not quite. I had to find a spot to get off the path, and up to one of the bridges to cross the river. The path is quite low, near the water, bordered by tall walls on either side up to the road level. Consulting my map, I needed to get off about here and head to the station. I came to the bridge and there was no ramp, only a long flight of stairs with a very narrow metal ramp for wheeling a bike. No chance with a full loaded touring bike, so I kept going. I passed 4 more bridges before I came across a suitable ramp that I could ride up. Even then it was covered in cobble stones.

The ramp popped me out near the Circus Maximus, where I was the day before, which was great because I got to check it out sans Rolling Stones. However, there was still an aftermath of the event, with crowd barriers that had been removed from the road, but dumped in the bike path, that I had to negotiate. Before long, I abandoned the bike path altogether and headed into the traffic. If you are confident, riding in Rome traffic is actually not that bad. In fact drivers here still seem much better than drivers I encounter in Australia with regard to bikes. Perhaps it’s because there are so many scooters (if not bikes) that the drivers are constantly aware. Also the fact that they driver smaller cars helps a lot, since bikes can be invisible from the lofty heights of a Toorak tractor driver’s seat.

Making way way through the crowd at the station, I purchased my ticket from an automated ticket machine, including an additional ticket for my bike. Simples! Check the boards I had about 20 minutes to kill, so it was gelato time! When the train came, I made my way up the platform to find a spot for my bike and the conductor. It happened to be right up the other end! When I got there, far from “rolling on” the bike, I had to haul it up four big steps, but with the help of the conductor we got there in the end. He then told me, regrettably, that I need to walk the length of the platform (again) to validate my ticket at the machine. Wah.

Once I was aboard it was a smooth ride all the way to Napoli, with some spectacular views of the surround hills and towns. I was glad to avoid Napoli, the city. I had heard that even by Rome or Torino standards it was a  scary place to ride a bike. The way things worked out, I only needed to see the inside of the station. I’m sure it’s not all bad but on this occasion I was glad to pass it by. I bought my ticket from the ticket office and asked about my bici. The guy didn’t seem to care at all, so I took that as permission and wheeled it through the gate. Then I got to the platform entry, but there was no lift or ramp, just more stairs. I had to carefully nudge the 40kg bike step, by step, fingers gripping the brakes to avoid losing control. Once on the platform I met another Aussie family, from Brisbane with 4 kids under 10! It looked like they were still having fun, but the nerves were getting a bit frayed. They were going to Pompeii for a night, then spending a few days relaxing on the Amalfi coast.

On the train to Sorrento, I stood and held my bike as there was no luggage area to place it in. This seemed to work fine as I was not obstructing people getting in and out. After a while, four Americans got on the train, and one of them, wearing a name tag Jack, asked me about my bike. We got chatting and he told me they were here on a tour visiting Pompeii and a few other places. I told him I probably wouldn’t make it to Pompeii as I was heading to Sorrento, but he was adamant I see it. “It is amazing” he said. He had convinced me, and knowing my schedule was dictated by nothing other than what I felt like doing, I got off with them at the next stop and walked up to the entrance of Pompeii Scavi.

After some preamble of locking my bike, putting my panniers in the luggage storage, grabbing an audio guide I jumped right into the complex. Wow. Pompeii is amazing, and it is huge. I thought I might spend an hour there, but you could easily spend two days. Apparently the area is 14 hectares, a real a city with so much complete detail. If I was impressed by the ruins in Rome, this was an order of magnitude more impressive. So much has been preserved, since it hasn’t been subjected to wrecking and rebuilding of subsequent empires or pillaging for creation of new temples. There are complete mosaics, Roman baths, theatres, Roman style ‘fast food’ outlets, even rude murals on the walls of the brothel. More than any other place I have seen, you get a true sense of what life was really like for these people. And I met a real life archaeologist, a team in fact, but I was too star-struck to speak to them, so I just took a few sneaky pictures. I wish I had more time, but I had to rush and get my bags before they closed at 7PM.

From Pompeii, I jumped back on the train and travelled the rest of the way to Sorrento. Negotiating the gates at the station was a challenge as I managed somehow to get my bike caught between the barriers, until one of the station staff came to rescue me. I’m increasingly getting the impression that Italy is not that bike friendly 🙂 I didn’t stay in town long, but headed up the hill toward the camp at Nube??? After checking in, I made my way down to the terrace over looking the beach to pitch my tent. There was another cyclist there cooking noodles for dinner. His name was Anton (or Antonio in Italian) from Munich, another really nice guy, who was riding his bike for 3 weeks, while contemplating his future. He had worked for a big bank for 35 years, and now with a recent merger his work life was terrible. I could relate to that somewhat. It caused me to reflect on where my own career might lead me once this cycling adventure was over. It had been an intention of mine to use this time to work some of that out in my mind, but I have found myself so caught up in the moment of every day adventure, I’ve hardly given it a thought, but there is still more than a month to go before I face the real world again.

After setting up my tent, I made my way to the restaurant and sat at a table outside to admire the sunset over dinner. Tomorrow will be an easy day, cruising around the Sorrento peninsula and the famous Amalfi coast. It’s going to be great!

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5 comments

  1. So glad you made it to Pompeii how creepy are the dead people, but the doodles in stone are funny to lighten the atmosphere

  2. Napoli on a bike!!? Yeah I think you did best to avoid it, but I probably would have said the same of amalfi coast had you asked me. It seems your motivation with that bike is relentless, mum would be proud.

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