Day 12- Castellammare, Pompeii, Napoli

Today was Sunday, and there was a church branch on the way to our next destination. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to just go to church and partake of the sacrament, since we have not been able to go for 2 weeks. Before we left, we had breakfast in Suzy’s kitchen. She made us hot chocolate and we had rolls with jam and toast (comes in a package already toasted) with nutella. Another American couple from a northern Chicago suburb was there when we got there, so we got to talk about Chicago with them for awhile. Turns out, we were very similar in our itineraries/point in our lives. He just graduated from a medical school in Chicago, and they came to Italy for 3 weeks. We had been to many of the same places, and those places we did not have in common Austin and I still have on our itinerary. They gave us some tips on Chicago traffic, and assured us that west suburbs are a great place to live. They are moving to Seattle for his residencies, but it was nice to speak English after not doing so for so long.
In order to get to church, we took the train from Sorrento to Castellammare, a far southern suburb of Napoli. Austin had an Italian companion from this area, and hoped that he would be there, but was not sure because this guy goes to university in Rome. From the train station, it was about a 40 minute walk, and we got there feeling pretty hot and sweaty to catch the end of Sunday school (sacrament meeting was last). There was a huge group of BYU art history students there as well, which was great for me because it meant the whole service was translated by the missionaries into English. Before sacrament meeting, Austin ran into Fausto D’Apuzzo, his Italian companion. Fausto was pretty surprised, but really happy to see Austin. He was VERY surprised that Austin was so skinny, compared to the last time they had seen each other. Fausto was Austin’s companion in the transfer following San Remo, so Austin was up to 265 lbs when they last had contact. They talked for awhile, and then sacrament meeting started. When Austin was getting ready for church with his jeans and tie, I worried that maybe he would be underdressed compared to the rest of the people there. There was really no way around it- he couldn’t pack a pair of dress pants when all we could bring was a backpack. So, to my surprise, when we got to church, no one was wearing dress pants besides the church leadership and the missionaries! All the men were in jeans. They were nice, clean jeans, and shirts and ties, but jeans all the same. Even Fausto, Austin’s old companion, was wearing jeans!
Us with Fausto at Pompeii
At the Roman theater- they did plays in this one, not
gladiator fights
After the meeting, Fausto invited us over to lunch with his family. We couldn’t say no. Fausto is finishing up his masters in applied physics, and is planning on coming to the US for his PhD (Berkeley is in his top few choices). Austin described him as a Renaissance man; in addition to being incredibly bright, he also plays piano very well and draws and paints. He knows English very well, and helped translate the meeting. He gave us a ride to his house, and we had a wonderful lunch with his parents. We started off with pasta in a cream sauce with green beans, baby mushrooms, and pancetta (bacon) in it. Austin did not know what to name the dish, but it was delicious. The second course was fried little fishes and tomatoes tossed in olive oil with spices. I was a little hesitant to try the fried fishes (because you eat the whole little fish!) but they ended up being very very good. Next came a vegetable salad that I think she cans herself. It had carrots and peppers and all kinds of other veggies in it, packed with spices and olive oil. Dessert was my favorite. It was a like a parfait- with pudding, granola, strawberries and dried apples. It is amazing how Italians can just host people for meals at the drop of a hat. They had NO idea they were coming (Austin did not have current contact info for Fausto) and yet they were able to feed us a wonderful meal. Austin had some deep conversations with them about chemical engineering and the future of energy (both parents are pharmacists and were very bright as well) and I tried to follow along with the conversation. Every once in awhile, they’d switch to English because the D’Apuzzo’s children’s spouses and their parents speak English and not Italian and they want to be able to talk to them better.
Snack bar- they would put earthenware jars in those holes
to keep food hot
After lunch, we thanked them profusely and Fausto gave us a ride to our next destination- Pompeii. This was a city that was wiped out by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The entire city was covered in volcanic ash, which hardened over time and preserved everything beautifully. The people of Pompeii were very naughty; they know this by some of the erotic frescoes around the houses, temples, and brothels, so they got wiped out! Some random guy digging a ditch found a portion of it, and excavation really took off in the 1800s. Now excavation has pretty much stopped, due to lack of funding. Now they focus on preserving the things they have already excavated. I rented an audioguide and this helped me learn about all the different buildings in the city. We were there for 3 hours and did not have enough time to thoroughly learn and explore! All the other ruins we have visited are mostly torn down because of wear and tear over time and cities being built on top of them, etc. Pompeii was so remarkably well-preserved because it sat under this ash for thousands of years. Because of this, as you visit, it is like you are really walking in the midst of a Roman town. We visited temples to several different deities, houses with beautiful frescoes on the walls, a “snack bar” where they ate lunch, a brothel, and a villa set outside the city that was used for making grapes. The city complex was fairly big, and included amphitheaters for gladiator fights and music performances/plays. There were several bathhouses and gymnasium areas for doing gymnastics and other sporting events. There was even a swimming pool! What was interesting was that there was a pretty big earthquake a few years before the volcano, and so many of the buildings were being reconstructed when the volcano erupted. The coolest part, I think, were the plaster casts of the people. Because volcanic ash buried them, and then hardened over time, their bodies decomposing left a hole in the rock in that place. The guy excavating the ruins poured plaster of paris into the cavities left and came out with some really amazing casts of the people who were caught in this event. This place was absolutely fantastic to visit, and we wish we had had more time before it closed for the night.
Plaster of paris cast of one of the people caught in the volcano
One of the better preserved frescoes…
Napoli’s soccer team
Following Pompeii, we took a train into Napoli and then the metro to our hostel. Coming out of the train station, I had directions written down to the hostel. Austin took off at a fast clip down the road (it was pretty steep downhill). I asked him if he knew where he was going. I guess he had seen 1 sign pointing for the youth hostel to be down the hill, so off he went. When he stopped to ask for directions, several people told him to go back to the train station and go the other way. The hostel ended up being behind the station, up against a very high sheer cliff. It was a beautiful setting from which you could see the sea and down into the small part of the city that we were in. I think what happened is that Austin was a little nervous about being in Napoli at night (Napoli is famous for dirtiness, crime, drugs, and pizza!) so he just took off to try to find the place. We checked into the hostel and went down the street to get a snack. Austin got kebap (mystery meat in a sandwich) and I got a croissant with nutella. We then learned that it was the Italian cup final for soccer was that night, and that Napoli was playing in the finals. There were groups of people huddled around TVs all over the place. Up at the hostel, we sat in the lobby watching the game and eating our food. I blogged for a bit, and went to bed just as Napoli won the game. Fireworks and other loud noisemaking devices started going off. There were cheers and car horns well into the night. We were just glad to be inside the hostel instead of out in the streets when they won.
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