Journal for Group Trip to Sicily & Amalfi Coast, September 2017


Journal for Group Trip to Sicily & Amalfi Coast 16-29 September 2017

The group came from primarily the Midwest (Michigan and Illinois), but included one person from Spokane, WA and one from South Carolina for a total of 24 friends. Some of them have been on over a dozen of my trips, some just a few, and I had three new participants.

Based on a recommendation from a repeat client, I began researching the island of Sicily and after a lot of looking, I decided to work with Collette. I had created an itinerary for a group trip to Thailand a few years ago and when I submitted my proposal to Collette then, they worked with me and found great hotels and a Tour Manager (Jenny) that I still communicate with.

I read John Julius Norwich’s Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History (2015) and the following quote seemed so appropriate:

“Goethe said: ‘Sicily is the key to everything.’ It is the largest island in the Mediterranean, the stepping-stone between Europe and Africa, the link between the Latin West and the Greek East. Sicily’s strategic location has tempted Roman emperors, French princes, and Spanish kings. The subsequent struggles to conquer and keep it have played crucial roles in the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful dynasties.”

So Collette showed me their “canned” Sicily itinerary. It covered almost everything that I wanted to see and the price was reasonable. One of the requirements for my trips is to minimize the number of hotel check-ins and check-outs that can be stressful. The Collette itinerary was four nights each in Palermo and Catania with day trips to nearby interesting sites.

Sicily map 2

I wanted to bring my Traveling Friends to the Amalfi Coast and so I continued working with Collette (Andrew Brown is my outstanding representative there) and put together an itinerary to visit some of the major sites along that most beautiful peninsula and add a tour of Paestum and Pompeii.

Amalfi coast map 1

The entire group flew to Rome one way or another and from there to Palermo, arriving on 17 September. As this was a “prepared” tour, our group of 24 was soon joined by 20 others. Our arrival in Palermo was met by our outstanding Tour Manager, Luciana Lyons. She guided us to our bus, where our excellent driver, Alesandro, took us to our hotel, Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa. It took its name because the early 20th century building used to house the Palermo stock exchange. As a result, the rooms were not uniform.

Luciana, Alesandro, DianaDSCN5008

Luciana and Alesandro

The exciting fact was that the Dalai Lama was also staying in the same hotel, so we experienced a host of security people as well as a large press contingent.

Dalai Lama cropped

The press contingent, security detail, and the Dalai Lama

The city is easy to get around and it didn’t take too long to get our bearings. Like other sites in Italy, Palermo has a very rich history because of those who controlled it at various times. Originally settled by the Phoenicians in 734BC, it fell successively to Carthage, then the Roman Republic, then the Byzantine Empire, then Arabs, then the Normans, then the Holy Roman Empire, then Spain, and finally joined the nascent Italian state in 1860. As a result, each culture left its mark and we celebrated the many architectural styles and food ways as we ingested the sights and tastes.

The patron saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia (The Little Saint) who allegedly saved the city from a plague. To this day, Palermans celebrate the tradition of walking barefoot from the center of Palermo up to Mount Pellegrino. As that occurs on 4 September, we couldn’t participate in this festino.

On 18 September, we got a quick tour of Palermo by motor coach. Here is Four Corners which is just about the center of the city.


Palermos Four Corners


Monreale Cathedral: Nave apse and Nave ceiling

Our destination was Monreale, a distant suburb of Palermo. Because Palermo had been taken over by Arabs, the Bishop of Palermo moved his seat outside the city. Remember that the church of a bishop is called a “cathedral.” When the Normans reconquered Palermo, they also took back the Palermo cathedral. King William II decided to build a cathedral in Monreale that would rival the more modest one in Palermo. The gold mosaic was, according to Luciana, the most elaborate example other than Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul) and St. Peter’s in Rome. But because Monreale’s is 90% original whereas the other two have been extensively restored, the Sicilian mosaic is more authentic.


An example of the exquisite mosaics in Monreale Cathedral and the unique cloister

To compare with Monreale, we visited the Palermo cathedral, whose interior is nowhere near as exhilarating, but the west façade showed many different architectural styles.




Palermo Cathedral exterior and interior

We then went to a street market to see unique fruits and vegetables, followed by a lunch of “street food.” This traditional Sicilian fare was served on the second floor of a restaurant.


Long squash and greens in street market


Palermo: Palazzo Conte Federico: State Room

Our next stop was to Palazzo Conte Federico, where the very friendly Contessa Alwine showed us around. She and her husband, who was a descendant of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (going back to the Holy Roman Empire!), now continue the upkeep of this living museum by making it into a B & B. You can spend two nights in the Medieval Suite for only $428 per night! This medieval palace contained the only remaining tower of the original medieval city walls. She even showed us a piano used by Richard Wagner.


Piano used by Richard Wagner in Palazzo Conte Federico

The Contessa had replaced a medieval map on the tile floor of one of the rooms, putting a halo around one enlarged tower.


Tower of Palazzo Conte Federico (four up from bottom on left) on medieval map of Palermo

So why not get a picture with the Contessa? Two of the Four Tanners succeeded.


Half of the Four Tanners with the Countess

Here is a description of the Palazzo, click on this to open it. Palazzo Conte Federico

The next day (19 September) we went to Erice. I had originally scheduled it for the day previous, but Luciana feared that we would not be able to do justice to both the Palazzo and Erice, so she changed the date. Erice sits about 1500 feet above sea level, so we knew that it would be cool. Along the way, we passed a series of marble quarries. I wonder how much more can be taken from the hills here?


Rock quarry on the way to Erice

 Luciana prayed once again to Santa Rosaria to have a cloudless day so we could see a great distance from the summit. It worked! Our first stop was the 14th century Chiesa Madre, with its campanile called Torre di Re Federico Secondo.

DSCN4952Chiesa MadreDSCN4956

Erice: Chiesa Madre Campanile and Nave

 We climbed up the steep cobblestone street to the Muslim-built castle, which was modified in the 12th century (Castello di Venere) for the view, but as the fog (called “kisses of Venus”) was rolling in, it gave an eerie effect to the scenery as we looked down to the Trapani salt flats.


Erice: Castello di Venere

I wonder why Sicily is not a prime location for more groups? Now that we have seen it, I feel like a walking Chamber of Commerce for this diverse and beautiful island. The vistas, the food, the people, and the wine.


Returning to Palermo after Erice trip

 Dinner that night was at a local restaurant (Ballaro) where the owner gave us a lecture on the Mafia. To expose that sinister group had to be a group effort as the Mafia is still responsible for many of the everyday events (like garbage collection) and people pay extra for this service but if it doesn’t occur, to whom do you complain?


Anti-Mafia Banner in Palermo

On 20 September, we boarded our coach again and drove east along the Tyrrhenian Sea coast to Cefalù to visit the cathedral.


Sanctuary and Apse (Pantokrater) of Cefalù cathedral


Cefalù Cathedral and one of our group pictures with most of us               

We then traveled southwest, crossing the spine of mountains called Madonie which is the Sicilian extension of the Apennine Mountains on the mainland. We visited a ricotta cheese farm and the owner kept calling me “Pablo” and her “sweet one.” (If she only knew!) We made arancini and then were served a great lunch.


Ricotta cheese factory lunch

As we had packed that night and were told “bags out by 7,” we followed instructions and the next morning, we boarded our coach for our 8AM departure for the longest coach ride of the trip. Unfortunately, only a single porter was available to shlep our checked bags to the coach, delaying our departure. Even Luciana carried bags to the bus. We finally left at 8:30, heading southeast, skirting Corleone and got to Agrigento. This UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Valley of the Temples. [Click onAgrigento to see a short description of the site]


Temple of Juno at Agrigento today  and how archeologists think it looked in the 5th Century BC

Here are seven Doric temples, dating back to the 5th century BC.


Temple of Concordia at Agrigento


So what are they smiling about? (here is a fallen Atlas)

When we boarded the coach, we headed east and slightly north, again skirting some high hills and we got our first view of Mount Etna from the southwest as we approached Catania. We checked into UNA Hotel Palace for the next four nights and were treated to a nice dinner in our hotel.

DSCN5305First Etna ViewDSCN5347

First view of Mount Etna                                                  Elephant is symbol of Catania

On 22 September, we got a walking tour of Catania with our great step-on guide, Diana,


                                       Diana, our step-on guide this day

as well as Luciana. As we were not going to be back at the hotel to change clothes, we loaded warm articles to use when we went up Mount Etna in our backpacks. Diana gave us a humorous possible dialogue of the policemen who seemed to be everywhere as they prepared for a union strike and potential violence.


Union workers preparing for demonstration

We saw the very Baroque cathedral with its tomb of Vincenzo Bellini. So this is the reason we were served ‘pasta Norma’ at every dinner?


Bellini tombstone in cathedral


Catania Royal Chapel

We visited or saw some public buildings, and finished with a tour of the open-air fish market with mongers calling out their specialties.

Catania Open Fish Market

 Afterwards, many of us sampled the granita and then boarded the coach, stopping at an Etna winery (Tenuta San Michele) where we sampled some amazingly fine wines paired with the appropriate foods.  One more group photo, but this time it included most of the other 20 who were with us.DSCN5372

Group picture at Tenuta San Michele

Of course, those who know me know that I am a sucker for signs. Here is one that caught my eye. Does it apply to you?


How many of you have been in a vineyard when picked grapes are being separated from the stems? The pile in the front of the grinder are the stems that were removed. I bet OSHA would not be happy to see someone sticking his hand in the hopper!

Grinding newly harvested grapes at Tenuta San Michele

After our too-long lunch, we got back in the coach and Alesandro maneuvered it partway up the slope of Etna. Where he let us off was a relatively flat area with some buildings. We climbed an additional 400-500 meters to a vantage point to see many of the smaller fumeroles.


One of the sub-peaks of Mount Etna

Unfortunately, we did not have the time to take the tram to a higher peak. But one of our group did her own documentation of her presence on one of the summits.


Etna is the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Several in our group later mentioned that this was the high point (no pun intended) of the entire trip. After we boarded the coach, Alesandro and Luciana pointed out a house that had been inundated by lava and ash in 1992.                                                           Duly documented: we were there!


House buried by Etna lava and ash in 1992

Note that vegetation is already starting to grow in front of the house above, showing the process of breakdown of the volcanic material that becomes extremely productive. This is, in part, why some of the finest (and most expensive) wines and olive oils in southern Italy and Sicily come from sides of volcanoes like Etna and Vesuvius. Etna is really active. Here is a photo taken in 1992, showing many fumeroles smoking at the same time, not just at the peak. The other photo is Etna erupting in March 2017. See what we missed?


Etna erupting in 1992                                                  Etna in March 2017

That evening, many of our group went to the bar on the 7th floor to watch the sunset and see Etna smoking from a vent about ¾ of the way to the summit. Luciana told us that there were five craters at the top and over 300 smaller ones that stretched all the way to Catania. I also found out from Luciana that she was scheduled to be our Tour Manager for our time on the Amalfi Coast! What a relief to have someone that competent and so much fun with us for the remainder of the group trip! That made observing the sunset over Catania just that much more enjoyable.


Sunset over Catania with crescent moon

Siracusa was the goal for 23 February. What I think impressed everyone was not the amphitheater (we have seen several) but Orecchio di Dionisio (the Ear of Dionisios) in the Garden of Paradise. The 16th century Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s legend that it was built by the Tyrant Dionysius so that he could listen to his prisoners was nixed by our step-on guide who said that it was the quarry site for the amphitheater and acted as a sounding board to improve acoustics on the other side of the rock wall.


Neapolis: Orecchio di Dionisio. Note the smooth walls.

As Siracusa is a “living” city and what we visited was Neapolis, our visit to the city of Syracuse involved taking a tram over a bridge to the island of Ortigia to visit the church Santa Lucia alla Badia that had the dramatic painting of Caravaggio (The Burial of Lucia).

The Burial of St Lucia


In doing some research, I found that there is a controversy where this painting should reside: this little church or the Basilica of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro (the painting’s original home). So why did Caravaggio paint in Siracusa? He had fled the island of Malta following some violent incidents (he was an artist!) Remember the  booming loudspeaker voice: “NO PHOTOS!”                                                                                   Caravaggio, The Burial of Lucia

every time someone even raised a camera. From there to the Cathedral Square to view the momentous Baroque buildings surrounding it, go into the cathedral, and eat lunch.



Siracusa, Cathedral

Our only stop on the way back to Catania was at a rural estate where the owner had collected some stone sculptures and biological specimens as well as a mid-afternoon snack.

The next day, we motored along the Calabrian Rise as part of the Ionian Sea to Taormina. We finally experienced some rain and it appeared that the entreaties to St. Rosalie and St Agatha (the patron saints of Palermo and Catania) had not been heard. Our goal was the Greek amphitheater but because I was nursing a sore throat and a possible cold, Connie and I chose not to make that trek. We found a small café or bar. Unlike bars in the U.S., this one had several shelves of call liquor, beer taps, but also two large espresso machines, and some really yummy pastries. As we had four hours to wait, we did like the locals and took our time ordering and drinking, making small talk with those at the next table and just observing.

When the rain let up, we wandered through the town which was interesting. Unfortunately, besides some interesting sights of locals and colorful pottery, we also saw evidence of anarchists.


Taormina: local curious resident                interesting stairway in Taormina

and saw others who had also elected to not get soaked.



Taormina bar. Were those all his glasses?

When we got to the large square near the coast, we heard “Oohs!” and “Aahs!” and saw that Etna had a cap of snow as the rain in Taormina had fallen as snow on higher elevations. We were there just the day before!


Snow-capped Etna in September from Taormina

 Luciana entertained us on our coach trip south along the Cyclops Coast by describing the story in the Odyssey where Polyphemus (one of one-eyed Cyclops and the giant son of Poseidon) threw boulders into the sea to express his rage against Ulysses.


Another myth or legend was that a shepherd named Aci and Polyphemus were both in love with Galatea (a sea nymph). In a blind rage (probably easier since he only had one eye) Polyphemus killed the shepherd by throwing a boulder on him. Galatea beseeched the gods to bring the shepherd back, so he was converted into a river flowing where she had met Aci. As a result, most of the towns  in this area have “Aci” in their names. Honest! Look at a map of the coast here.

Our farewell dinner that night was because the other 20 (not part of Travel With Chardoul) were going to leave us and our group of 24 would travel on its own the next day to the Amalfi Coast. The long table accommodated all 44 of us. As the next day would be a travel day and I knew that it was Kathryn’s birthday, we thought that it would be appropriate to celebrate it at the farewell dinner. The three musicians (who appeared before every course of the dinner and played Italian songs) broke into “Happy Birthday” to Kathryn and then went into more lively dance tunes. That was a fitting ending to a crowded day.

On 25 September, as we had packed the night before after dinner, the Chardoul group of 24 loaded onto our coach and went to the Catania airport for the flight to Naples. Luciana found out that seven seats had suddenly appeared for a later direct flight from Catania to Naples, so we selected six from the Chardoul group that she would lead and I led the others on the two flights from Catania to Rome and from there to Naples.

Even though the direct flight left later than ours, because it was direct, it got to Naples prior to ours, so Luciana and our new driver, Giuseppi, were able to take the smaller group to Lloyd’s Baia Hotel in Vietri Sul Mare at the eastern end of the Amalfi Coast, then return and wait for our flight. Now we had a smaller 30-passenger coach and drove down the coast from the airport. Vesuvius with its two main cones rose distinctly to our flank.


Vesuvius’ two cones seen on our way to Vietri Sul Mare

Because it is classified as sommo-stratovolcano, it has several peaks. The main one collapsed in 79AD and the caldera were filled by a new central cone. It is still considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, partly because of the three million people in the immediate area and partly because of the large amount of pumice and other debris driven by excessive amounts of gas. (“excuse me for not projectile vomiting.”)

Pliny the Younger described the initial eruption in August, 79AD. He was a keen observer and his short letter gives us a word picture of that horrendous event. Click on Pliny Pliny description of eruption for this description.

The vistas all the way from the airport to our hotel were spectacular, but I knew that we would see so many fantastic sights that we might become jaded.

Lloyds Baia Hotel

When we checked in to the hotel, as it is built into a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, we entered the lobby on the main floor, then got on an elevator, went down two floors, exited from the other side of the elevator, then boarded another elevator and went down two more floors to our room. After settling in, we went into Vietri Sul Mare for            dinner.                                                              Lloyds’ Baia Hotel from a distance

I was intrigued by this ceramic factory because ceramics were so prevalent all over the area.


Ceramic factory in Vietri sul Mare

It was a bit chilly and we ate outdoors, so it was not that comfortable, even though the outdoor part of the restaurant had glass walls to protect from the wind.

On 26 September, we loaded into our bus and headed across the Sorrento Peninsula to Sorrento. Check out this interactive map of the entire area. You can enlarge to your heart’s content.,14.3514668,12z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x133b95adc34c71a1:0x4ce8cf14c94f4cdc!8m2!3d40.6333389!4 d14.6028963.

In Sorrento we spent a few good hours, visiting an inlayed wood shop with absolutely fantastic furniture pieces and small trays.

As Sorrento is on the south arm of the Bay of Naples, we got a great view of Vesuvius, Naples, and the Bay, as well as Sorrento stretched out before us.



Bay of Naples from Sorrento

We then stopped at the Deep Valley of the Mills, which formed the natural edge of the historic center of Sorrento. This was cut by two streams: Casariano-Cesarano and Saint Antonino. The mill was abandoned in 1866 when part of the gorge was filled in to create Piazza Tasso. This is a great example of unintended consequences, because the stopped-up water created its own atmosphere with a very high rise in humidity and its own micro-climate where Phillitus Vulgaris, a rare fern that dug its roots into the stone of the mill, forced abandonment.


  Sorrento, Deep Valley of the Mills

Some of us visited the cathedral of Meta di Sorrento (Santa Maria del Lauro) to compare with other churches we have seen. The legend is that during the 8th century, on September 12th, a deaf-mute woman, named Teresita, while grazing her cow, saw a strong light under a shrub of laurel in a place that had held a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva. After a statue to Our Lady was erected, the woman regained her hearing and speech. The bishop moved the statue to Sorrento but it disappeared and reappeared in its original location. This happened twice more, so it was placed in the replacement church where we found it, because the original church had been demolished.










Campanile of Santa Maria del Lauro, Sorrentos cathedral

We saw some great Baroque architectural examples of churches. Although I did not enter them, this one caught my eye.


Sanctuario Della Madonna del Carmine

After we left Sorrento, we headed south on Strada Statale 145. We crossed the spine of mountains in the center of the peninsula, stopping in Amalfi for some exploring. (How did I know that the third picture below was from Amalfi? Look at the left side and see “Hotel La Bussola” on the side of a building. An internet check and the only Hotel La Bussola was in Amalfi.) From there, we joined SS163 that follows the road originally built by the Romans and stopped in Minori. The views were spectacular and although I took lots of pictures, the coach was moving too quickly to capture the beauty of the Amalfi Coast. Giuseppi did stop several times for “Kodak Moments” however.



Spectacular vista stop along SS163 on Amalfi Coast


View of Amalfi on scenic drive

Time for a drink in a local Minori establishment, then join the rest of the group as we inspected the cathedral, but did not climb the 82 steps to the top.


Basilica di Santa Trofimena, Minori

Our next stop was a limoncello “factory” where we saw part of the process of making this typical liquor of the Sorrento peninsula as well as sampled some varieties on the basic drink. Here is a website if you want to try making it on your own. Frankly, I would rather purchase it at my friendly wine distributor. After that, we walked to the same family’s pastry shop for some really great choices of pastry.

Here are several shots of the small town (population 2900) of Minori.


The small town of Minori. Its elevation goes up several thousand feet

Then back to the bus and drove to the hotel. Again, we walked into town and had a very nice dinner. The restaurant that we visited the night before had essentially disappeared as we could see the glass panels, but they were stacked up against the wall and so we moved on to another restaurant.

On 27 September, after we left our hotel, we headed south, skirting Salerno (which is one of Italy’s largest ports) and saw a cruise ship at one of the piers. Unlike Maiori and Minori, where the cruise ships had to anchor out and passengers used lighters to come to shore, the port of Salerno is deep enough that ships can moor along the pier.

Our first stop was at a buffalo milk mozzarella factory. Although extremely clean, there were a lot of flies and even our guide said that she hated flies. Our guide took us through the task of processing the cheese where two men took globs of cheese and passed them to another man who pulled the globs apart (this is where the word ‘mozzarella’ comes from as the Neapolitan word for cut is ‘mozza.’) The globs were put in a centrifuge that removed some of the liquid. We then went to where the water buffalo lived. These came from India, not Africa, because Indian buffalo are non-violent. (did they get their cue from Mohandas Gandhi and not from Mobuto?) The buffalo were kept contented by being milked four times a day and they could elect on their own for a massage DSCF1189

Buffalo getting voluntary massages

and special feed after attaching to the automated milking machine. There were four of them located in four different areas, corresponding to where the animals resided. The machines had computer and because the animals had a computer chip in their necks, the computer would determine how much milk each cow gave. (After a certain age, the milk production dropped and the cows were sold to another company where the hides were taken and then sent back to the cheese “factory” to be made into belts, purses, and other things.) The cows also listened to classical music for a certain period every day. The question of what happened to males (assuming that births create an even number of male and female buffalo and only two bulls were in each of the four sections to “service” the cows) continued the recurrent theme that males had become second-class citizens.

From there, we went to Paestum. This complex was built over a period of time from about 600BC. The first temple of Hera was built around 550BC and the second temple of Hera in around 450BC. The museum visit that preceded the actual site was extremely interesting as it included the results of a recent dig including a warrior laid out complete with breastplate and greaves. There was also a display of the Tomb of the Diver that had figurative scenes.



Paestum: two tomb decorations in the museum

This decorative practice began in the 4th century BC when the inhabitants decorated the interior of tombs with such things as processions, hunting scenes, duel, boxing matches, races, etc.

On the second floor of the museum, there were some interesting layouts of what the triglyphs looked like originally. Once we got to the archeological site, we stopped at the Temple of Athena, which like the other two main  temples, was primarily Doric, but had some Ionic columns as well.


Paestum, Doric Temple of Athena

The other two Hera temples were strictly Doric. Interestingly, we could actually climb into these temples and I arranged a group picture at the better preserved one. Like the Athena temple, one of the Hera temples had six columns across the front, while the other one had nine columns. It is interesting that in my research, the temple where we had a group picture had a confusion as to whom it was dedicated. One source said Hera and another said Neptune. The sign in front of the temple said “Neptune” so I am sticking with that, right or wrong. Yet another sign I found nearby said that “recent studies have attributed to Apollo in his role as a doctor.”


Paestum, Temple of Neptune

We then visited the amphitheater. Unfortunately, someone cut a road right through it, so we could not really fathom the magnitude of the original. Since the sandstone temples and amphitheater were covered with a thin layer of marble, later inhabitants saw this as an easy quarry source for their buildings. If you look carefully at the picture of the Temple of Athena above, you can see that the Romans used bricks to recreate the pediment, something the Greeks would not (and possibly, could not) do.


Of course, a visit to any site of importance was not complete without our little friend doing a selfie with Cathy to show that he was there.




That evening, we had a great ride west on the coastal road, passing through Maiori and Minori. This included some 180º hairpin turns where Giuseppi had to toot the horn to alert oncoming traffic. Some great coastal vistas for those who could stomach them.


and then we went inland and up to 1200 feet where we stopped in Ravello for dinner.


A small stepped coastal village on the way to Ravello


Staircase down to our restaurant in Ravello

Ravello, a town from the 5th century, was a shelter place against the barbarian invaders, which marked the end of the Western Roman Empire. It produced wool for the maritime Republic of Amalfi. Later, it had 25,000 inhabitants, but today it only houses about 2500. I had hoped that we would stop at Villa Rufolo for its magnificent vistas of the coast, but we were running late for our dinner, so we didn’t get the chance. Have you heard of Ravello? Every year in the summer, the Ravello Festival takes place in honor of Richard Wagner, who wrote the second act of the great opera “Parsifal” there.

For descriptions by others of Ravello, click Giovanni Boccaccio on Ravello.

After dinner, we saw the twinking lights of the lower part of Ravello stretching down to the Golfo di Salerno


Ravello at night and Golfo di Salerno

On 28 September, we had a full day. I had altered my original schedule because so many in our group had an early morning departure from Naples airport on 29 September, that I feared that we would have difficulty getting packed, in the coach, and then driving to the airport to make the flights, that we would have to leave at zero dark-thirty. Also, it didn’t make sense going to Pompeii and then the wine tasting on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, returning to Vietra sur Mare, and then leaving again the next morning. So I arranged for a single night hotel stay in Naples not too far from the hotel.

So our bags were out by 7 and we were underway by 8:30, taking the same route we had taken on Monday getting from the airport to our hotel, which avoided the hairpin turns that had upset several of our group last night. On the way, I noticed a lot of aluminum tubed and plastic sheeting “hot houses” and assume that this method of producing fruits and vegetables for the Naples market was productive.

We got to Pompeii and met our guide who took us on a truncated tour of the archeological site. We saw the ‘most important’ locations:


Pompeii: The Forum


Pompeii: The Amphitheater


Pompeii: Walking carefully on a paved road near shops


Pompeii: Zeus in bas-relief


Pompeii: the main room of Menanders  home

the Forum, one of the four baths, a rich home, market areas, some of the cement figures of those who had been caught in the eruption, and even a house of prostitution. (I won’t display the pictures that I took of that.)

We had to have a final group picture in the Forum with Vesuvius in the background and sweet Luciana photo-bombing in the foreground.


The destruction of Pompeii is what preserved it. Of course, there has been considerable restoration, but the rapid accumulation of 4 to 6 meters of volcanic ash and pumice in AD79 did this resort city in. The site was “lost” until 1748 but the ash kept the air and moisture out, thus the delicate wall paintings were preserved.

Area affected by eruption

Click here to view the description of the eruption by Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (better known as Pliny the Younger)Pliny description of eruption

Our next step was in the shadow of Vesuvius as we stopped at Cantina del Vesuvio in the Vesuvius National Park. So how many wineries have we visited over the years together in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal? All are different and the terroir differences show up in the type, quality, and expense of the wine produced. We sampled six different wines along with a “typical” Neopolitan lunch.

It was harvest time for some of the grapes and these workers allowed me to take a video of them picking grapes.

Grape harvest at Cantina del Vesuvio

From here, we drove to our final hotel, UNA Hotel Napoli. I had selected this hotel because it was relatively close to the Naples airport. This was a part of Naples that I was not familiar with, but centrally located, in case someone wished to go into another part of Naples as it was on Piazza Garibaldi across the street from the central train station and a Metro stop. As some of my guests had early flights, this would make it convenient for Luciana and the new coach driver. The room that Connie and I overlooked a side street where Middle Eastern refugees had set up an outdoor market.


As the group was breaking up, I tried to say my “goodbyes” to everyone, but I obviously missed some and I apologize here. As you probably realize, six of us had made prior plans to continue on to the Greek island of Corfú for one more week of exploration. Luciana worked with us that last night in Naples to get our luggage that we could check without paying an exorbitant fee.                                                                                         View from our Naples hotel 

When we did return from Corfu, the six of us spent another night in Naples at a different hotel because we also had an early flight back to the States. Our flight took us along the Tyrrenian Sea coast (the west coast) and on to Paris. I was able to pick out Mont Blanc on the border between Italy and France.                                               DSCN5936

Now I prepare for my next group trip, leaving the States for The Three Kingdoms of Indochina: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. This begins on 22 October 2018 and I will have more information shortly on that trip.














From there, we drove to the UNA Hotel Napoli and checked in. Our room overlooked a side street where refugees were running an outdoor market.




Just so you know where the hotel was located on the Piazza Giuseppi Garibaldi near the train station, here is an interactive map of Pompeii and Naples:


It was here that six of us broke from the rest of the group as we had scheduled a one-week trip to the Greek island of Corfu. The flights for the others varied from 6:45, 9:15, and 1:05PM so Luciana was busy getting from this fairly convenient spot to the airport. Our flight was not until 3PM and it had two legs: first to Athens, then to Corfu.


I will have another short journal for the one-week trip for the six of us to Corfu. On the flight from Naples to Paris prior to our return to Detroit and then home, Connie took this great photo of Mont Blanc. It is on the border between Italy and France.


as not waiting at the airport.