MiceChat’s June 2014 Mediterranean Magic Cruise organized by Teresa Cory of Fairy Godmother Travel set sail from the fabulous port of Barcelona in the autonomous Catalonia community of Spain. After a relaxing first day at sea, the first stop was the port of Villefranche to visit the storybook village of Eze and the tiny principality of Monaco. Continuing the cruise, Florence and Rome were the first Roman adventures. The final Italian stop was in Naples where we enjoyed a full day touring the Amalfi Coast and exploring the ruins of Pompeii.
Any visit to Italy absolutely must include a stop in Naples, the place where pizza originated. But more than just pizza, historic and beautiful sites abound. Prominent near the city of Naples is the looming volcano Vesuvius, whose 79 AD eruption buried both Herculanium and Pompeii. Also nearby is the romantic island of Capri, just offshore from everyone’s come-back-to city of Sorrento. Further south from Naples is the dramatic Amalfi Coast, our destination as we get on the road from Port Naples in a luxury 15 passenger Mercedes bus on our own private tour arranged on-board the Magic by our Fairy Godmother Teresa.
The Magic was built at the Fincantieri shipyard in the Bay of Naples.
Our first stop was to overview the Fincantieri shipyard in the Bay of Naples where our splendid Disney Magic cruise ship was built back in 1998. Naturally we all lined up to get a photo of our MiceChat gang bowing to the yard in thanks that she still floats safely in the sea. Continuing the drive, we began to see why the Bay of Naples is so popular; mountains and seashore, more and more beach resorts, most of them private, some open to the public. As we approached Sorrento the full beauty of Italy began to come into view – certainly in contrast to the busy highways and crowded historic cities. Continuing on past Sorrento we wound our way along narrow roads thru hillside vineyards – yes, grapes and olives, this really is the Italy we want to learn more about.
Sorrento is a favorite destination on the Bay of Naples.
Many private beach resorts are nestled along the Amalfi Coast.
Then suddenly we pop over a ridge and the breathtaking Amalfi Coast appears in an instant.
The Amalfi Coast road is carved out of the near vertical cliffs.
Trees and flowers create a dramatic cliff hanging gardens.
Blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea hug the Amalfi Coast.
The coastal cliffs are so steep in places that the road is carved into the mountain. Gradually the view changes from dramatic natural terrain to the amazing sight of villas and hotels, large and small, tucked into the mountains or perched on narrow rocks. It’s now quite obvious why for centuries people have gone to extreme efforts to build these living places just to savor the splendid scenes overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Even more amazing is that this coast road was designed for wagons, not motor vehicles. It’s a hilarious sight to watch large tour busses negotiate impossible turns. Everyone cooperates gracefully to thread this needle tooting a warning horn on the blind curves, although some folks on scooters and sports cars hardly slow down at all. Now we fully appreciate the term “Italian Driver”.
Medieval town of Positano is a picture postcard of Italian life
While Positano is on the coast, there is little space for beach access.
Two beach resorts are located in Positano, a steep hike is needed.
The stunning Il San Pietro Hotel, rates from $900 to $2,000 a night.
Hundreds of villas cling to the cliffs of Amalfi with sea panoramas.
A tiny house perched on a cliff next to Finger Rock.
Conca die Marini is a very special beach resort with a sandy beach.
Arch Bay on the Amalfi Coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Cliffside homes above the spectacular village of Amalfi
Towering rocks shelter village homes in Amalfi.
Amalfi is nestled deep within the towering coastal mountains.
Quaint narrow streets of Amalfi with popular shops and restaurants.
Amalfi Plaza is a great people watching place to enjoy a fine lunch.
Duomo di Amalfi Cathedral is very beautiful, especially the interior.
The Duomo di Amalfi facade is probably the most beautiful in all Italy.
Duomo bell tower is major landmark visible far out at sea.
Amafi’s walkways are shady and inviting.
A number of peaceful and beautiful spots to linger of a glass of wine.
Spiaggia gravel beach may be awful hot, but it’s still the main beach.
Italian girls endure the hot gravel and sun to get a bronze look.
The town of Amalfi is a tiny medieval period village tucked tightly into a deep coastal canyon with some of the homes perched high up on the cliffs. Our gang enjoyed a wonderful Italian lunch right in the main village square, then explored the touristy little shops and the cozy beach before resuming the drive back over the twisty mountain roads to our final stop of the day at historic Pompeii.
Since I had previously visited Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum several times in the past, I was charged with the task of “tour guide”. This allowed us to proceed at our own pace, bypassing the sometimes pontifical professional guides whose groups create pedestrian traffic jams at the more interesting spots. Everyone wants to see the infamous brothels. While the entire historic city of Pompeii is quite large, only about a fourth of the area has been restored enough to view properly, plenty of walking is still required.
Amphitheater of the athletes.
Bread shop with baking oven.
Wagon wheel ruts worn into the street paving stones.
Pedestrian crossing stones used to keep feet dry during rainstorms.
Two story commercial building.
Pompeii’s origins go back to the sixth or seventh century BC. Eventually it was captured from the Oscans by the Romans in 80 BC. Buried in 79 AD by the massive Vesuvius volcanic eruption, the city lay buried until 1599 when scientific exploration started in 1748. Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years, hosting 2.5 million visitors every year. The artifacts and architectural details have been preserved for centuries free of air and moisture under deep layers of volcanic ash. Both Pompeii and smaller Herculaneum illustrate so many characteristics of the Roman civilization of over 2,000 years ago.
Entry detail on an elegant business – the roof has been restored.
The original business sign is still visible and protected.
In one very elegant home the wall decorations are quite beautiful.
These homes had very artful fresco wall paintings.
A particularly well preserved original wall with highly detailed frescos.
Mosaic tiled floors and interior water ponds were a very popular style.
Amazing how the fallen volcano ash protected such delicate paintings.
The home’s roof and second story has been restored.
A large bath house entry is paved in polished marble.
The bath house walls are decorated in intricate carved marble relief.
These reliefs are done in a very clever perspective detail.
One bath house detail is of a very ancient Stitch sculpture.
A courtyard is centered inside the porticos of the bath house.
The ruins of a very large home featuring a marble water pond.
Fertility markings are used by prominent and powerful Pompeii citizens.
Molds of the people at the moment of death are on display.
This death mold is of a dog.
Life must have been really fabulous with a big variety of rich and middle class, plenty of food products, shops of all kinds, even brothels were a regular business. The Forum center of the city gives evidence of a a quite sophisticated government, probably with all the attendant politicking. Many modern civil infrastructures existed; piped fresh water, sewers, storm drains, paved streets, sidewalks and curbs. While there were neighborhoods of modest houses, quite a few successful families owned very impressive large homes with courtyards and decorative water ponds. These homes featured extensive fresco wall painting and mosaic tile floors. Life was obviously very organized back in the days.
Actual bones are preserved as they were found during excavations.
A warehouse of commercial clay food and wine storage flasks.
The Forum was the center of Pompeii civil life.
Large formal office buildings and columns surrounded the forum.
A column detail.
The forum buildings used an interesting variety of designs and materials.
These columns must have created a dramatic city center at the Forum.
More column details of the Forum.
These are the remains of the Forum Temple.
What’s left of the interior roof support columns.
The interior walls featured fluted column details.
Observe how the columns were plastered fluting over cheaper brick.
The Forum Temple’s main stage framed by more columns.
After our Pompeii tour we again rejoined our fellow Magic passengers for the voyage back to Barcelona, enjoying a relaxing sea day before returning to our homes.
Join us on an exciting MiceChat 7 night Alaska Cruise on the Disney Wonder – June 1st, 2015:
We sail toward the top of the world on the delightful Disney Wonder. We’ll hold all sorts of special MiceChat meet-ups on board, suggest group excursions you might want to join us on, dine as a group to discuss our adventures and more. Don’t kick yourself for missing another amazing MiceChat adventure!
Ask us for more details on any of our upcoming MiceTrips or for Disney adventures of your own by emailing us at [email protected].