Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pompeii - buried in ash

The ancient world.
Techniques for art, living spaces, and the laundry

Pompeii. This is a city that death caught in mid life. See

Pompeii, fresco, face

Frescoes remain visible, some in strikingly good condition.  The face remains vivid, although the rest of this fresco has faded.  The technique is a painting on wet plaster, see http://

The ruins show ordinary lives, rooms, doorways, gardens, doorways opening into more doorways, views of interior gardens.
Pompeii, ruin of a house, many rooms
Where there are shops, there are also refreshment places. liquid and snacks offered to the shoppers, social
places to go.

Laundrymen in Roman times had their own patroness:  the Goddess Minerva, symbolically shown as the owl.  Pompeii also had its commercial laundry, where soiled clothing was arranged over a wicker cone, and a smudge pot of burning sulphur set beneath. 

The laundry process.  Smelly.  See the magazine, Archeology Odyssey, March-April 2005 (this by way of update), see homesite at  At page 56, learn that urinals outside the establishment collect donations from pissers-by.  That aromatic liquid is combined with potash from wood ashes, potassium carbonate; and hot water.  Pour into tub, add clothing, and pay (slaves?) laundry workers to tromple about like on grapes, then comes the rinse, wring and dry in the sun.

Fuller's earth, or a kind of absorbent clay, like kitty litter? degreases the fragile items. 

Then comes the carding, brushing up nap and then shearing it smooth again (razors on sweaters?).  Pressing was accomplished by a vise, like your husband's trouser press possibly. 

This is not an OSHA approved process.  The fumes and toxicity produced infections, breathing ailments.  Toga washing.  Not for the faint-hearted. 

How big is a toga?  Very big.  Perhaps 20 feet long, 10 feet wide.  Patricians donned pure white togas, but lower beings wore lower-maintenance off-white.  See "Going Clean", Togas Washed and Pressed, Archeology Odyssey.

We enjoy ruins, learning what the structures were. The common sense of old cultures - here are stepping stones to get across the street without mussing sandals in the muck, with space for wagon or chariot wheels in between. We are more alike than un-alike. Markets, art, recreation.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Herculaneum - buried in mud

Herculaneum. Not as publicized as Pompeii, but just as devastated. Here, mud flowed instead of ash covered.


The town was buried in the same cataclysm as buried Pompeii. Mount Vesuvius did the damage. See The eruption was at the same time as affected Pompeii.

The town of Herculaneum is near Naples, and is so far below street level that there are walkways, rather than walk-on streets for visitors. There is an elevated series of pathways, looking down. This gives a broad sense of the large size of the city, and an overview.

In Pompeii, you are walking right in it.

Herculaneum is still being excavated, as is Pompeii.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Train trips

1. Our use of trains. One long run, Venice to Naples, getting off at Bologna, Florence, Rome, and to Naples. At Naples we rented a car.

2. Opting out of the package deal. The travel packages of so many days by train, and so many by car, did not fit us. We bought our train tickets as we needed them, and rented the car separately.

3. Weigh carefully whether to take the high speed train, or a local. Calculate the time vs. the enjoyment of slower scenes, more casual connections with people. We got some of our best tips from people on the local. And saw far more. Calculate what time you have. If you miss your high speed, ask the difference in travel time before hopping impulsively on that local over there.

4. Hotels nearby. If you travel by train and want at least your first night reservation in hand (we sometimes do the first night and the last night in advance), remember that you will be walking and carrying your bags. Look up the maps for hotels on the internet and get a room close to the station.

5. If you are stuck (as in London) for a place to stay that doesn't cost the roof, go immediately to the main train station. Victoria Station in London, for example. There are always rooming houses and small hotels at train and bus stations. We found them to be clean and safe.

6. Downside of all trains. They leave you off and then you have to walk or take a cab to see anything. Most stations are in the center or near the center of town, but that area might be rundown by now, and there are always things farther afield that you will miss. Long hoof in Bologna, for example, with our backpacks (chose not to locker them), and the heat was extreme. Took much of the fun out just getting there and then back in time.

Links, posts, archives

Third-party website references are in longhand, not a quick link format. We are concerned that immediate links are not predictably safe - see, for example, Too hard to tell who qualifies to use the fast lane. Regrets. Our mixed format here is geared for speed, immediate education if someone wants it, and without losing the place on the trip blog. There must be a better way to protect significant rights without closing the book.

Posts: reflect arrival to departure, not the date when the post may have first been published. This makes sense to us for a travel site. So do read the archives - they complete the trip.

Technorati Profile

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Naples-Palermo Ferry; ferry tips

The ferry is overnight heading to Palermo, daytime on return.  Internet reservations may well not work, even though you have received a confirmation sheet, as we did.  Get there very early, and plan to get on line.  We made it, and got a cabin.  Cabins are inexpensive because the ferries also cater to truckers who want the shower and a break from the cab. 

Return:  we had no idea how long we would stay in Sicily. So we did the same thing:  after a number of days, went to one of the ports, found that there was room out of Palermo again, so drove back there by the lovely resort northern shore. 

Sicily - side trip

Rent car in Naples, drive around Amalfi Coast, see Pompeii and Herculaneum, then on overnight ferry to Palermo Sicily - see Sicily Road Ways. Then back to ferry dock at Naples, and drive north.

Just fit.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Anzio - World War II

Anzio, the beachhead. See; and The netfirms site offers a fine World War II overview. Click on the link for pictures. Debates continue about the strategies used by both sides, mistakes made, hindsight, heroism anyway.

The town is between Naples, where the ferry docked coming back from Sicily, and Ostia Antica, where we stayed before flying out of Rome. We took the long, meandering coastal route north - no motorways. There are fine memorials there. The battle was in 1944. We do try to remember.

One site says in the header that Anzio was a great military blunder. That issue is not new. See

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ostia Antica - Lydia and the Mint. "The Better Pompeii"

Ostia Antica. The old port to Rome, now found inland. This lovely place is often overlooked because Rome's airport is so close. See Make the time for it. Spend the night near here. Quiet. Contemplative.

Ostia Antica, near Rome, Italy

This town 2000 years ago was on the coast, and was Rome's main port for some 600 years.
This site calls it, "The Better Pompeii." See
Ostia was hit by disease (malaria) and other towns became more prominent as Ostia became silted in. Waterways changed. The port finally silted over, and also silted over much of the town, preserving a great deal..
Anecdotal Lydia! We meandered -- no fences, no ropes, and out and saw "Lydia's House" on the little sign. Climbed in and over the rocks, into a courtyard, to a room on the left - and suddenly there was the aroma of mint and more mint - and no mint to be found anywhere. Thank you, Lydia, for your home and your hospitality. I can smell it yet. A delight mid-afternoon. And where from?
Ostia did produce at least one recipe still available, see the customary use of passum or raisin wine, possibly seen in a medieval church in Denmark, at Vetting Roots: Bjernede Church, Last Supper section, Passum and Ostian meatballs.  Ancient Roman recipes:  see
Romans in cities - there were apartments, several stories high, around a central courtyard - brick-like, with shops on the bottom. The guidebook picture recreating the building of flats looks quite modern.
Ostia is also known for Mithraism - a center for one of the major Roman Empire religions that flourished and became (as to cultural practices and many concepts) incorporated into the later Christian faiths. Read about Mithra - and the similarities and liturgical adoptions - at Bogomilia, A Site for the Unsung: Mithraism. Then go back to the Danish church, Bjernede and see the crescent on the headdress of St. Laurence. Syrian, Middle Eastern connections, all part of the Crusades, cultural crossovers.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Trieste - Italy, but easier done from Croatia

We went here, but part of our trip to the Western Balkans, Croatia and Slovenia. It is only a few hours from Venice, but not a natural side trip. Trieste is to the east, and the rest of tourist-Italy is to the south and west.

See Trieste Road Ways. Trieste represents Venetian domination of the Adriatic, however, and giving the territory to Italy after WWII (instead of keeping it with Tito and Yugoslavia) still rankles some. The area went between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia in disputes for centuries. After WWII, the Potsdam treaties said Trieste was to be self-governing, but it later went to Italy, see Scroll down about 9 paragraphs for the reaction to the allocation. For Potsdam, see Germany Road Ways.

Trieste was an area of alleged war crimes, and for overview on that topic see Get there if you can. It is beautiful, but its history is turmoil. For the history of the Trieste events of WWII, see Go to the home page, then navigate as needed.

Trieste is a kind of Venice with the canals from the bay area, but it is cross-hatched with them. They do not substitute for roadways. See the aerial view at

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Excellent photo gallery here - someone else's

We have our own photos on the posts, but often find good ones elsewhere.

See, for example, These sites (and these blogs) are intended as a resource and education and entertainment for people who are unable to travel, as well as a stimulus for those who can, to do it.

More blogs about Italy Road Ways.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Itinerary After The Fact

Five days stay and by train, Venice to Naples;

Two days car Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Amalfi Coast;

Four days Naples ferry to Sicily: Palermo; Monreale, Erice, Trapani, Marsala, Selinunte, Agrigento, Gela, Casale (Villa Romana), Enna, Mount Etna, Randazzo, Capo D'Orlando, Cefalu, Termini, Solunte and Palermo.

Three days Ferry to Naples again, Anzio, Ostia Antica, and Rome.

See also