We leave beautiful amalfi today. I panicked the first time we left back in 2012. Thinking it may be the only time I get to see it, I remember having tears in my eyes as we drove away. But I’ve realized that travel has a boomerang effect. You go back to the places you love over and over. So leaving now doesn’t make me cry. I say “until next time” Instead of “good bye”.
So we pack up the van with all our luggage. Let me tell you, it’s a good bloody thing we have a van. See pic above. Truth be told-at least one of those suitcases is filled with denture supplies, one is empty for purchases, and one is nothing but snickers and dirty underwear.
We start the road to Pompeii- we have a tour of those magnificent ruins this morning! Nic and I have both been before, but I can’t wait to see my Mom and Dad experience their first ruins.
As we start down Toads Wild Ride-we are met by children waiting for the bus the school. On the side of 1800 ft cliffs. And their bus is comin in hot. They lean out over the edge and wave goodbye to moms and dads, and sit on the ledges to make room for the passing cars. I’m terrified for them-but all in a Monday for these little cuties. We come around one corner and are met with 3 donkeys- waiting to start their Monday commute also. Too bad they were on the wrong side of the road and almost get hit every time a car comes around the corner. Total asses.
We drive through the town of Maiori and are making our way through a turn when a police officer comes over and waves us down. Apparently we went the wrong way around a median and now are the scum of the earth. Never mind that, within the last 10 kms, we’ve seen a man riding his Vespa with a whippersnipper on his shoulder, a donkey who’s signal lights clearly were not working, and what I can only describe as Italian child bus Jenga. But he is quite adamant that we are idiots. We all gesture frantically and talk at once-and this seems to make the po-po feel much better-seeing that we can “Italian”, and he waves us away with an exasperated sigh.
It’s about 40 kms to Pompeii from our hotel-but it takes about 1.5 hours to drive with all the whinding roads. So we plug along, with me saying “I HATE TUNNELS” every 5 minutes. It’s like someone dared the Italian government that they couldn’t build tunnels. So they built 1500. What’s most disconcerting is that at the entrance of almost every tunnel is a memorial of some sort – crosses and flowers- to those souls lost in the tunnel-from accidents and whatnot. The thought of being inside one of these tunnels during an earthquake makes my stomach do flips EVERYTIME we go in one. But I’ve found that if I loudly say “I HATE TUNNELS” it helps……Me. AND it annoys the crap outa gary. So…..
We finally hit the Autostrade (freeway) and a toll booth. You never know if they are a “take a ticket” or a “pay a toll” booth- so we have all pooled our change and given Gary about 15€ to have in his pocket so that we don’t need to scramble each time we come to one. But when we reach this one, we find the toll is 2.10€… and gary hands in his VISA?!?…… note to self: don’t give gary money while on vacation. Of any sort. He’s loses it. EVERYTIME. Or he gives it to the homeless. Or he buys chocolate and loses the chocolate. Or he reaches in for his keys and drops the money on the ground and he doesn’t notice. Or he eats it. Or he buys bags of beavers with it-I still haven’t figured it out, but whatever it is he does with it-it disappears. I’ve tested the theory many times. In canada, France, Italy, China. He loses it every time. OR he has out smarted us all and has $12000 in a bank off shore from all the change we’ve given him. Either way, we’re at the toll booth and he hands them his credit card – for a 2€ charge. That’s when we realize that we just lost 15€.
We make it to Pompeii and meet our tour group while gary and Chris stay with the van for a few hours of alone bonding time. We are Not a huge group, about 25 people. But we decide to Wolfpack it through Pompeii, with Nicole in the front, Gonzo and Camilla in the middle, and Me bringing up the rear, keeping my eyes on the muppets and making sure everyone is accounted for. I can see Dads eyes widen when he sees the first ancient road of Pompeii. Original and uncovered from the meters of ash it was buried by all those 100’s of years ago. The Pompeii people had no idea they were living on an active volcano. Even so, They had 3 days of warning- ash and sulfur, smoke and rumbles. A lot left, but the majority stayed.   Interestingly almost all of the dogs and cats made it out alive-sensing something huge was about to happen. It’s also interesting to note that Pompeii was actually still in a reconstruction from an massive earthquake just a few years before Vesuvius blew. So instead of the 20,000 that had Inhabited her, Pompeii had 15,000 st the time if the eruption-having lost 5000 people in the earthquake. Boy was she having a bad stretch.
We tour one house in particular where you can see the bones of slaves that we’re locked in their quarters. They clearly knew what was happening as Vesuvius erupted -for 3 days. People either died of asphyxiation, ash smothered them or they were crushed. These slaves died of the latter-and were then buried by ash. You can tell they knew what was happening because you can see the tunnel they were trying to dig to get out when they died, and their finger bones were found disjointed from their efforts.
We see the one dog found and casted (the archeologists found voids left by decomposing bodies and poured plaster in them-creating a mold of the exact body that was inside). The poor dog had been tied on with a rope you can still see around his neck. We tour the bath houses and theaters. Dad and Mom in awe every step of the way.
Our tour finishes 2 hours later and we are information drunk. Excitedly talking all the way back to the car. And then I see it. Chris is in the drivers seat. Of the 9 passenger van. This should be interesting. He hasn’t driven a standard shift in 3 years. And he hasn’t driven in Italy in ever. There were a couple of tense moments where the Reverse camera came on. When he thought he was in first. But was actually in reverse. And mom and Dad learned that my grandfather actually taught me TONS of swear words, not just the one they knew about.
We make pretty good time on our drive from Pompeii to Tuscany. The speed limit is 130 km/hr. And most are doing 150. It’s terrifying. But we get there 6 hours later.
A stop at the “Pam” in Ponggibonsi for groceries-pasta, pancetta, cheese, wine and onion, shallot and veggies. I’m cooking in Tuscany tonight. Sigh. I don’t care what time we arrive.
We get to the town limits of San Gimignano and I start to bloom-I don’t feel at home anywhere more then here. Not even in my actual home. I have been told many times I am at my best in Italy. By my husband, family and most recently by my friend Tara when I took her here at the tail end of a Paris vacation. Something about Tuscany in particular makes me more relaxed and more myself. So by the time we are rounding the corner for the Agriturismo Niccolai, my shoulders have come down 4 inches and my nerves are calming. We pull up and Mom sees her “Torre”-the tower room she will be staying in for 5 whole days. And I hear that familiar relaxing sigh come from her also. She’s home-in a place she’s never been. It’s amazing.
We have the asses lug the bags up while the rents and Nicole and I check out the rooms. The groceries come up and I unpack and start dinner. Bacon carbonara tonight with an appie of pecorino cheese and pear crostini with balsamic glaze. Sto benne! I am truly at peace- for the first time in 2 years- since my last Tuscany visit. And it is well needed-my soul soaking up the experience like a culture sponge. Andrea Bocelli playing in the background, a relax on the deck and some Vin Santo-and we have a VERY happy Karen. I catch Mom sitting on he deck waiting for her dinner-crying. My heart is healed and broken all at the same time. 72 years-leading to this experience with your girls-it must feel very surreal and overwhelming. Words fail me.
Nicole made leaves. Or salad or whatever. So we all sit, eat our salad and carbonara and talk about our day. We tell mom and Dad about the adventures that await them tomorrow and put them to bed. -even though we know they won’t be going to bed-I know my mother. She’s going to stay up in her tower room and watch Tuscany. And she does.
We do our usual walk to the muppet bar (Nicole and gary’s apartment). We drink rum and coke and talk about how excited we are about how excited mom and Dad are. Read it a few times and that will make sense.
Tomorrow is another amazing day to be alive we decide-so off to bed. No set wake up time Tomorrow. YAY!