Friday, 20 November 2015

Vesuvius 79 AD :

We took a day while in the Amalfi area, to find out more about Vesuvius blowing it's top. Our Tour guide, Ada (pictures centre, below with red umbrella) did an excellent job of informing us. One mind blowing fact I can't get over, is that the still massive and active volcano, Vesuvius is now only 1/3 of it's size when it blew, in 79 AD. That makes Vesuvius SO massive, imagining it three times as high is well, mind blowing. 15 towns were wiped off the map when Vesuvius blew. In Pompeii, no one survived, and all died from the ash that came. In Herculaneum, 5 miles away, not everyone died. Many, but not all. What is really astounding, is that this small resort town was on the coast of the Mediterrannean, and after the volcano exploded, it was at least 1 mile from the newly formed coast. People here died from the actual lava flow. People who hid in arches of buildings were saved, as these were strong enough to hold over the flow of lava. 
In the photo above, you see where the arches are at the bottom of the photo? That was the DOCK, and the sea came up to this point. Now, you can't see the sea from here at all. 

Our guide Ada, showing us the traditional opening in the roof, to allow rainwater to fall into what looks like a wading pool. This water was collected and used for household chores and bathing.

The culture at the time of 79 AD  enjoyed a rich lavish lifestyle. Everywhere, detailed frescoes and highly decorative homes.  

This is the public bath. People would go here 3 or 4 times a day! Not just to bathe. This was the place where all levels of society would mingle with each other. The rich needed the poor and vice versa. So important plans could be laid here. Rich, asking favours of the poor and vice versa. 

A highly decorative room- a typical example of some things being left in actual fair shape, while other buildings were completely irretrievable. 

Ada is pointing out 4 vessels on the advertisement from 79 AD. Each vessel is a different colour, with it's price written below it. It's the cost of wine, with the most expensive at the left, and getting cheaper as you read to the right. The last one, would be the table wine we all drink nowadays. It wouldn't be terrible, but drinkable and affordable. This was a very sexually open society, and for the same cost of a bottle of cheap wine, one could purchase the services of a prostitute for the evening, for the same price as that of a bottle of wine. A very common practise then!

Another example of ornate decorative fixings, this design made of tiny pieces of marble laid into cement. Amazing! Many rooms has these tiny pieces of marble in the floors to reflect light at night time, and guide peoples' way in the dark.

This is what is left of a frescoed wall. The painting was mainly a yellow colour. The heat from Vesuvius had turned the frescoe red. It is permanent.

Our group listening intently.

When one of my students strayed and missed what guide was saying, I filled her in by telling her these were ancient public toilets. LOL. No, this is where wine was stored, and this was a wine store. It seemed like every second building on the main drag was a wine store. Another interesting logical fact: When a town was being built, the main street was always east/west, to get the most amount of sunshine/light in the street. Smart. 

One of the best preserved frescoes in Herculaneum.
Our guide was able to explain the mindset of the people here when Vesuvius blew. They saw the fire on the top of the volcano, but thought it was just a fire. They had no idea that they would be dead in just a few hours. There was a man in Herculaneum with the foresight to write down all his observations about the whole event. This is one reason why we know so much about what happened. An amazing day, and amazing event observed. 
Vesuvius is still active. The Italian government is trying to buy up the property close by Vesuvius and get anyone living near the crater to move away. Ada tells us the land is cheap!, and many would rather afford this place and take their chances. The area has several mini-earthquakes every day! 
After leaving the area, we drove along the coast seeing the islands dotting the sea, like Capri. Ending the adventure in Naples eating Napolese Pizza and beer!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Amalfi: Drama enough

Amalfi is drama enough without the weather accentuating! Yes, huge dark clouds sank down over the mountain tops. We arrive just before it starts to get dark,..then slowly we see the lights all over the various coasts light up and tell us, they are there. Despite the fog and clouds. Love the way buildings are tucked into the natural shapes of the humungous rockside cliffs. 

There's a hint of rainbow at the top of this one. Courtesy of Tania Capuletti.

I wanted to add this photo just to give the idea of the comparison of the rock, to the size of the buildings. It is truly spectacular. 
The Amalfi coast has several towns dotting the Coast, and I am glad we stayed in Amalfi, as it is the sweetest town! It has a very old church, heavy on the gold mosaic decoration. Also a charming downtown with nice shopping, and acceptable gelato and espresso. 

Just had to add this. Too much cuteness in one photo! Seriously, we all know the vehicles in Europe are smaller, but these trucks are such a joke! Love the colours, not just the size. 

Just an idea of how sheer the cliffs are. The black cloth is protecting lemons from frost. Our temps made us wonder why they'd worried about it, but I guess it's coming.

Around every hairpin bend in the road, another breathtaking view. But the region is not just a series of towns. I think the road hugging the coast with it’s unending hairpin turns,and crazy drivers is as much a characteristic part of Amalfi as anything else. Hats off to out great drivers, as the view is so breathtaking around every corner, it’s wonder to keep your eyes on the road!

Serious weather rolling in. I love weather! I love having a big view of it too. 

This area has a history of paper making. I took this photo of a store selling it's own handmade paper, and it's museum, under glass and under foot. Cool, eh?

Of course there's a church involved,....all beautiful.

This was quite unique. It's a replica of the town of Amalfi. They even have particular buildings replicated, like a gigantic lego world. So cute, artistic and well done. Children and adults loving it. It's outdoors, so made of durable stuff. Lovely. 

Vietro. The town of ceramics. Everywhere. And a good pasticceria too.

Oh. Wait a minute. This is a painting trip! Love the narrow walkways everywhere, and the little bit of light on the corner. Amalfi walkways. Pastel on Uart pastel paper. By this point in the trip, I find people are starting to want to get some relaxation time in as well as painting. There were a few more pastels and lots of sketching still happening. But we are nearing the end of this great and fun trip. I'll continue to write about it, as there are so many things I didn't mention yet!!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Travel Day: Tuscany to Amalfi

Our travel day to Amalfi started out with good byes to our Tuscan hosts Elena and Enrica. Notice Angus is all ready for the seaside with bathing cap and sunglasses. Looking fine Angus! 

Several of the following pictures were taken by me from our van as we drove through Tuscany. Pretty good pic for a moving van! Stunning views everywhere. Gotta love those cypress trees as a definite design feature! I wonder if us north americans drive Italians crazy with our love of cypresses, but they are just so different for us. 

Maybe for Europeans it's normal to see so many old ruins. I just thought this was kinda cool, hilltop wreck and ominous sky,.........

We drove through Umbria, and then onto Lazia, just south of Rome, in the province of Campagna, we took this breathtaking break. Montecassino. It's massive, extraordinary, stunning. First we saw it from the highway, and the criss cross hairpin drive up what looked like a flat and sheer side of a mountain. This particular view with students walking up is after you get to the main entrance and just turn around. Beautiful towns in the valley between mountains as well.

 This is the first spectacular courtyard to come to after you enter. All landscaping is very much an art form. Crazy. And the most stunning roses I have ever seen, encircle the statue in the middle of this courtyard. Everything that is building, is made out of marble and stone. But an impressive amount of marble. Really.

After the courtyard is a balcony with a stunning vista. I've bordered the photo with the balcony railing. The abbey of Montecassino is built on a site that has been strategic throughout history. It's one story after another of destruction and siege, rebuilding, then the cycle starts again. The earliest recordings would the destruction of the pagan temple of Apollo, which was destroyed in 529 ad. The most significant siege and destruction today would be the entire destruction of a medieval fortress during the second world war. Destroyed by the allies, as this pretty well constituted the german line, and the last stronghold before Rome. The medieval fortress that stood here held many amazing pieces of artwork from the very best painters and sculpters across Europe, representing many centuries. 

Getting back form the balcony and onto these huge, high steps up. I'm sure the monks who lived there felt they must be getting very close to God, what with the height and the sky and all. The building we see today was rebuilt after the war. It is still classic, and once there, it seems one is looking over the earth from the heavens. You can understand why this location was fought over, so many times. 

Just a little ostentatious. Just a little. Inlaid intricate marble walls, elaborate gold everywhere. The home, of 18 monks. Hmmmm. 

Massive, massive beautiful trees with a jungle of plants growing around the trunks surround the abbey, adding to the grandeur.

Also taken from the balcony of Montecassino. Many in our group took this light as a message. 
More Grandeur. These monks are truly living in the clouds. Hmmmm

After this, we were well on our way to Naples, and past that, the Amalfi Coast, next installment. 

Arrival.                    Ahhhh. The Meditarrannean.