Pompeii – Oct 17-18

Pompeii is a many-faced city. There is tat

and moonlight;

and a fine basilica…

We started off our weekend with an excellent meal at La Madia, where the degustazione menu was too much but too good to stop. Melanzane Parmigiana

followed by pasta, with cream, veal and potatoes

– wonderful but so filling it was all I could do to enjoy the tagliata that followed – could be the best steak I’ve ever had.

Our dessert – a regional specialty – was a layered excess of chocolate, custard and marzipan…

Thus fortified we were equipped to spend the following day in the ruins of Pompeii.

It would have taken several days to see them properly, but we did what we could. The wall paintings were wonderful:

The baths were impressive…

Many fountains in town, most still giving drinkable water:

This one sweetly decorated with shells:

The mosaic floors were stunning:

Pompeiians obviously enjoyed their bread; there was more than one bakery with its own flour mills:

and ovens, of course:

They ate out a lot too, at thermopolii, where amphorae were propped in holes in the counter; the food stayed hot without flame, because of the heat-preserving properties of terra cotta.

And the colosseum is in pretty good shape, at least on the outside:

Back in town, the preparations for the papal visit were well underway, which included taping up the mail slots and garbage bins and installing some rather fetching porta-loos.

We decided to splash out on a meal at the town’s finest dining establishment, Il Principe, and what a disappointment that was. We were ushered into a near-empty restaurant, sat next to a giant arrangment of fake flowers. The appetisers were good and interesting, souffles of cheese with various vegetables:

Things went really wrong when it was time for our second courses. The sea bass was ok, but like the meals of all four of us, was nearly stone cold when it was served.

And the quality was just not worth the price tag. The proprietor appeared to be too busy catering to the only other table in the restaurant – clearly peopled by old friends and/or local dignitaries – to trouble his head with a quartet of stranieri. We were so disheartened by the experience we fled immediately for a little cafe near the hotel, where we were served nicely decorated and not over-priced caffe macchiato by friendly proprietors.

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