Sunday, October 24, 2010

visit to Pompeii and first day of riding

Yesterday was my first day on the bike. I rode from Naples to Sorrento about 59 km. It was a great day, and my visit to Pompeii was the highlight yesterday.
I need my peel and dough... this photo is going on the wall!

I was glad to begin the cycling and have my escape from Naples on a Saturday. The traffic in the city is rather horrible. Saturday morning brought relatively clear streets and good weather. I set out around 8:30. The first 15 km was all on cobblestone road, however. It was jolting and a bit painful. It did allow me to identify any loose screws on the bike, which I quickly tightened up. After about 35 km, I came to the Pompeii. The ruins are just a small detour from "new Pompeii." I was a bit worried I would not be able to enter the ruins for fear of not finding a good place to lock my bike and store my panniers. However, I was pleased to hear that they hold your luggage for free and there was lots of high-visibility spots to lock the bike to outside the entrance. So, I bought my ticket (11 euro, which is the low season price and a steal, in my opinion) and off I went. I had a goal of finding as many of the famed 33 wood-fired ovens that they have found. I quickly realized that this place was much larger than I had thought. The preservation was really amazing. I was blown away by the expanse and features that were preserved. Oh, and I found lots of ovens! About a dozen. It was so neat to see the same design that I had used on my oven at Pompeii. I would've killed for my peel and some dough. I have some great photos that I wish I could share now. I'll be sure to do so once I find a computer that allows me to download photos. I spent about 2 and a half hours walking the ruins and I didn't even see half of it. I would have walked more, but I needed lunch! Back on the bike the final 20 km or so was quite enjoyable. It was fairly mixed riding with some nice narrow roads leading into Sorrento (famed for being the home of the Sirens in Greek mythology). A few sprinkles greeted me upon arriving in Sorrento. Sorrento is also famous for its lemoncillo and man, was it everywhere! I easily found my hostel, unpacked, grabbed un caffe and un bicchiere d'aqcua gassata, and wrote in my journal. Afterwards, I spent about 2 hours walking the town. It was fairly touristy with lots of Brits and Americans. I kept to myself for the most part.
They might not know much about Geology, but they did build a nice dome in this oven.

My stomach was a growling and I decided NOT to have pizza for the first time for dinner. It'd been 3 nights in a row. I actually could have eaten pizza, but just chose a panini instead. Also, I visited a local enoteca (wine shop) and found a good-priced half-bottle of Greco di Tufo. Its a local white wine (made with Greco grapes) near the town of Tufo. It has DOCG status, which is basically a way that the quality and content of the wine is insured/controlled. It was a great way to toast my first day of riding! I made it an early evening as I was excited about what tomorrow would bring along the Amalfi coast.
I think one thing I really appreciate about Italy is there passion and pride for their local produce and specialties. In fact, its often hard to find items that aren't local. For example, every cheese or produce shop I go into I look for Raschera cheese. Its one I discovered on my last tour in the town of San Bilbo in the Piedmont (although it is not from the Piedmont, actually). I loved it and haven't had it since (can't find it in the US either). Here in Campania, they love their mozzarella di buffalo (mozz made with buffalo milk). It really is a treat and dominates the cheese aisle/shelf/basket. Its fairly cheap too, which I think is because of the competition and availability but perhaps also its a way to keep other cheeses out. Anyway, this is completely foreign to us in the US. "Whatya' mean I can't get bananas in Alaska?" We'd have none of that and I think that is just silly. I'll get off my pedestal now.

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