This walk was the confluence of two historical paths. One path through space and time started when we climbed Mt. Vesuvius in 1969 while we were on our ‘Grand – 5$ aday – Tour’ of Europe. The other started when Dick and Dottie started using our home a few times as they put together their successful campaign for governor of Colorado. We met Dick when he spoke at Colorado College in 1972 and soon after we were supporting his campaign. Here is a news article on Halloween 1974 when Val and Scott went trick-or-treating with Dick and his children, Scott and Heather. Over the intervening years Val served, at Dick’s appointment, on the Colorado Air Polution Control Commission. We supported Dottie’s effort to run for the U.S. Senate and we have visited with the Lamms and climbed Colorado mountains and cross-country skied in the high country with them over the years.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, Dick and Dottie asked us to join them walking along the Almafi Coast and the Islola di Capri. At the end of that walk, we four moved into a house high above the town of Sorrento. This village is on the Sorrentine Peninsula backbone with views to both the Bay of Napoli to the north and Solerno Bay to the south. The house is on a family compound and works very well for us four. Dottie and Dick arranged to trade a week in their mountain house in Aspen for this home in Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi. This region is the home of the mythical Greek sirens who lured sailors to their destruction. On our walk last week, our guide Constantino posited that perhaps locals here posted their beautiful wives and daughters on the rocks to attract sailors who had been living cramped and difficult lives. This was done at the end of sailors’ long passages and then the wives’ husbands and fathers could swoop down and pillage their ships.
On a pleasant walk to a nearby monastery we came upon a lovely view of Mt. Vesuvius and a plan formed. We took an early bus down to Sorrento (25 min) and then got train tickets to Herculano (1 hr or so) which is at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. Herculano is much closer to Mt. Vesuvius than is Pompei where we were a week or so ago. One result is that while Pompei is 80% excavated, only about 20% of the Herculano area that was hit by the 79 CE eruption has been evaluated. The reason is that Pompei was covered with blazing hot ashes while Herculano was covered by red-hot flowing lava. Excavations in Herculano are far more difficult and seem to occur only when someone is digging for another new building and finds some marble columns, etc. Herculano today seems to be completely covered with blocks of pretty mundane apartment houses, plus streets of shops and restaurants.
The three pictures below are from our guidebook and are an ancient artist’s rendition of the big 79 CE eruption that finished off Pompei, a photo of the turn of the twentieth century eruption and one of the 1944 eruption.
From Herculano, we took a van up the switchbacked road toward the summit of Mt Vesuvius. At the end of the road we joined many tourists walking the last several kilometers to the rim of the volcano’s steaming crater. (Note the contrast of Leslie hiking up in ’69 and today’s photo of her hiking with Dick and Dottie.) The view on the trail is expansive – sweeping off the gray and crumbly volcano over the dense urbanity of Napoli to the blue, blue bay.
Then, too soon, we had to start down to reverse course, walking down the cinder cone, getting the van and then the train (which was now very crowded) and finally, after a nice cooling refreshment of granita limone in Sorrento, we found the bus to Sant’Agata and ended a long day with a liter of white wine and a variety of fresh salads, fish and pastas.