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Travel tips

All you need to know before visiting Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

There are so many reasons why you should visit (idioms dictionary) Italy; food, wine, culture, natural beauty, people and my favourite ; history. Nothing can beat Italian history. So a must-see is definitely Pompeii. One of the reasons why a love (apple of eye meaning) to travel and explore is that feeling of being humble, smitten, amazed and changed forever. Pompeii changes you.

Nature can be savage, and standing on the main square Foro and looking up at Mount Vesuvio you realise its power. Its most famous eruption took place in the year 79 A.D., when the volcano buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. In one afternoon in August two thousand people died of heat, collapsing roofs or choked to death on thickening ash and clouds of sulfurous gas.

When a group of explorers rediscovered the site (idiom site) in 1748, they were surprised to find that underneath a thick layer of dust and debris Pompeii was mostly INTACT. Buildings were intact, skeletons were frozen right where they’d fallen ! That is so fascinating that approximately 2.5 million tourist visit this place every year and it is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Italy.

If you are planning to explore it by yourself do the research because it can be confusing to walk the streets and understand the way they lived and perished.

Tickets

The second time (killing time synonym) we were lucky (first was last year in San Marino). It was Cultural Heritage Week and the entrance was free otherwise it’s 15 € per person .

Check the Pompeii official site  http://pompeiisites.org/en/visiting-info/timetables-and-tickets/ for the opening hours , free admission or reduced prices. Free maps are available at the Info Point or you can download it here http://pompeiisites.org/wp-content/uploads/map_pompeii_2018_set-l.pdf  and you are allowed  to access the sites only with small bags (30x30x15 cm max.)

There are also guided tours available at the Information desk at Porta Marina or in Piazza Esedra. You can also download App Discover Pompeii – Pompei audio tour for free ( „A self-guided walking tour, with more than 6 hours of audio guides and a map that works offline“) and Pompeii Touch App („ This app gives people possibility to make a comparison between how Pompeii is and how it was before eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD „ – around (find a way around) 2€).

Getting around

Map of the Pompeii excavations, water and good walking shoes are the most important thing you should have with you. Don’t worry about food or drinks. There is a nice café and restaurant in the excavation area, just (definition just in case) north of the Forum. There you can find soft drinks, cafe, pizza, good italian sandwiches… Keep your empty bottles for refilling as there are occasional water taps around the site.

The city of Pompeii is divided into nine districts called Regiones. Each one is divided into various blocks called insuale. A plaque is located at the corner of every block which shows The Regio and the insula in which you are standing.

There are some itineraries on the back of the map (depending on how much time you have)  that you can follow; it can be from two to seven hours of walking.

First thing that will blow your mind are the streets and the way they were built. There are stone blocks for pedestrians to step onto to cross them . Since they had water and waste flowing through them, the sidewalks  are very high comparing to modern ones. Remember ? Comfortable shoes !!

Look for small tiles called „Cat’s eyes“. Candle light reflects off these tiles and gave light, so people could see where they were walking at night.

Another thing you should look for (like the visiting sailors of those days) are the stone phalluses that serve as arrows and if you follow the arrows, you’ll wind up at one of the city’s many brothles. Some historians say that is not true and they were just good luck signs and symbols meant to ward off the Evil Eye. I prefer the first version.

Around 35 bakeries have been found In Pompeii and you can’t miss them. The bakeries’ ovens look similar to the old brick stone ovens. The bars had counters with three or four holes in them in which they had water or other beverages.

What to see :

1.The amphitheatre – was used for gladiator battles. It was completed in 80BC and could hold about 20,000 people. It is the earliest surviving permanent amphitheatre in Italy and one of the best preserved anywhere.

2. The Great Palaestra (Gymnasium) – The central area was used for sporting activities and there was also a  pool in the middle.

3. House of the Vettii – contains many frescoes and illustrations. It was a home (go home and let sleeping dogs lie) of two brothers who were ones slaves and then freed and became very affluent. This house has been closed to the general public for the last 10 years but at least the atrium of the house is open.

4. Large Theatre – It seated 5,000 people.

5. Lupanar – Prostitutes were called ‘lupae’, and the word ‘lupanare’ indicated a brothel. It has small rooms and stone beds that were then covered with matrasses. Erotic design paintings have been found, very well preserved, and probably used as a sort of catalogue. In ancient Rome prostitution was accepted. Clients were mainly merchants and foreign sailors. Prostitutes were slaves and their earnings went entirely to their owner. The average price was the price of a glass of wine.

6. Baths – There are several baths you should see:

  • Stabian Baths were named after their location on the crossing of Pompeii’s two main streets – Via Stabiana and Via dell’Abbondanza – and are the oldest public baths in Pompeii and the oldest preserved public baths from anywhere in the Roman Empire. They were built during the 2nd century B.C.
  • Forum Baths were built during 80 B.C. and are smallest public baths in Pompeii and the most elaborately decorated.
  • Central Baths are located in the center of Pompeii They were unfinished when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

7. The Basilica – The most important public building of the city. It was the Courthouse and the center of the economic life.

8. Temple of Apollo – It has the oldest remains discovered, dating back to 5th century BC, although the layout we see now was later than that.

9.Forum (The main square) – center of public life. It was surrounded by many important government, business and religious buildings.

10.Forum Granary – was designes to be the public market but was not finished before the eruption. Today 9000 artifacts like amphoraes, pots and pans for cooking, jugs and bottles, large containers used to transport oil, wine and fish are stored in this building.

Mount Vesuvius

It is a very active volcano that has erupted several times. Last eruption happened at 1944 and it’s only a matter of when, not if, it will erupt again. Vesuvius National Park was established in the mid-1990s and allows visitors to access the volcano.

For visiting Mount Vesuvius you need a beautiful, sunny day. The hike will be more pleasant and the view from the top is breathtaking on a clear day. It overlooks the Bay and city of Naples. I would say those are two main things to see: the crater and the view. It was overcast the day we visited. Bummer.

Not very understandable is a ticket office which is 200 m below the entrance on the middle of the winding road. There is a sign on the road, but you kinda miss it thinking oh well we will buy it at the entrance. The road is not that wide, there is no parking lot, so people just park on the side of it. Do not make the same mistake and come to the top, park the car, walk to the entrance ….and then realise that you need to walk back to buy the tickets (10€).

There is a bar and a small souvenir shop at the entrance. No toilets and you can use the one at the bar only if you buy something. You can take a walking stick for the hike to the crater (a tip is required). It only takes 30 min to get to the top, but believe me, It is not an easy one and it is pretty steep. Wear comfortable hiking shoes or sneakers, but not white ones. Trust me !

I would highly recommend to take a scarf or a hat. The wind is sometimes very strong.

The crater looks like something out of this world, lunar-like. It has a diameter of about 500 metres and a depth of 230 metres. You would expect something huge , at least I did. Steaming vents reminds you of the calm before the storm. It looks and sounds peaceful now, but you can only imagine how scary it was looking at the mushroom cloud of ash, dust, and rocks that went 21 miles into the sky….. and the avalanche of hot rock racing down the mountain.

That was enough for me. Saw it….imagined for couple of minutes….and then rushed back down. It was one of those places that you want to see, but not stick around.

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A day trip to Assisi

This was the first time (killing time synonym) I didn’t do any research on a place I’m going to visit. It was just (definition just in case) a place that we wanted to check out on our way to Itri, so we booked a hotel, sat in the car and drove almost 7 hours to this amazing place, charming and romantic town.

There are 8 parking lots around (find a way around) the city of which 3 are close to the town gates , just a few minutes from the key monuments of Assisi. The prices are around 12 € a day. Also check with your hotel because some of them do provide parking or have deals with city parking. Do not try to park inside of the city (it is only for residents).

The first thing you will notice is a lot of holy souvenir shops, I mean a LOT, or even pictures on the wall, and then, you realize, you are in the town of Saint Francis. I must say probably one of the best examples on how to promote the towns history and its strong religious heritage. Even if you are not Catholic, non-religious, you will feel connected to the humble St. Francis.

It’s such a peaceful town. There is something about those stone roads and those medieval walls, and flowers on each doorstep that will make you fall in love.

Our hotel Sorella Luna ( http://www.hotelsorellaluna.it/en/home-2/ ) is located right above the most photographed house in Assisi and just just a few minutes away from The Basilica of St. Francis. I would highly recommend this hotel for its great location, the beautiful rooms and décor, and a staff that would go above and beyond to make your stay more pleasant.

You are in Italy so know that a lot of shops, restaurants and bars will be closed during lunch time which is between 1pm-7pm. I don’t like it but I do respect the Italian way of living.

So as we walked around to be able to see as much as we can in a day, Mr. G. stumbled upon this osteria called Osteria Piazzetta dell’ Erba (http://www.osterialapiazzetta.it/en/ ) and they were just prepping the restaurant for dinner time. Since he is more familiar of the Italian life he made a reservation for 7pm and he was soooo right, as the place was packed already at 7.30. The food was to die for, every detail in all of the chef’s meals were amazing and the price was very affordable. A wonderful staff, creative cooking and one of the best meals we had during our stay.

Spaghettoni with truffle carbonara

Things to see

Basilica di SanFrancesco is composed of two churches built one above the other. The lower one has the St. Francis tomb and The Upper Basilica frescos show his life. Stained glass windows are amazing, but you are not allowed to take pictures.

Basilica di Santa Chiara, Italian Gothic church

Rocca Maggiore ; a medieval castle from 12th century with a beautiful panoramic view. The majority of the sites are free, but not this one, and I have to be honest and say that the price does not match the offer. The castle offered nothing as far as exhibits, but it is worth it for the breathtaking views of the city.

Piazza del Comune

Planning this trip:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes . It’s not easy to walk those stone roads so be prepared to climb a lot of steps and hills.
  2. Since you will visiting a lot of churches dress accordingly; use good taste.
  3. Plan your lunch or dinner knowing that the restaurants and bars are closed between 1pm-7pm, not all but most.
  4. Majority of the sites are free , Rocca Maggiore is 6 €
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Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Europe

Rimini beach and San Marino

Being a Croatian (country of a thousand islands) I have huge standards when it comes to beaches and clean sea. We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You name it and we have it: sandy, rocky, stone (big or small ones), ones that you can only get to by a boat, secluded …. Even more beautiful is our sea. Transparent, crystal clear and most important clean! So I have to say, on first sight, I wasn’t impressed with Rimini which is known for 15 km long and 200m wide sandy beach. We came late at night after a long 6 hour drive from Rijeka and decided to walk the promenade. At one part of the lido the smell of sewage was so bad that we almost vomited, not kidding you. Thank God we were tired and decided to sleep over it and take a look at it the next day.

We stayed at L´ Hotel, elegant 3 star hotel located 20m from the beach. Large rooms with private balconies and wellness corner (heated pool, Turkish bath and Finnish sauna, massage room). They have 2 parking lots (8€ a day) that you can use and also provide bicycles (first three hours are free, then its 10 € per hour).  I was surprised by the way they designed the rooms, actually the shower. First time (killing time synonym) I saw a shower outside of the bathroom. They put it in the room and divide it with a glass door.

Breakfast looked more like a dessert table. I counted ten different types of croissants, pancakes, cakes…it looked compelling, but I enjoyed ham and cheese and a good cup of cappuccino.

Rimini beach is long, wide, sandy and commercialized. It´s divided in to establishments called Lido. Each one is numbered and has a name, like #85 La Playa (special discount for the guests of our hotel). They have to maintain the area and they provide (for a fee) some kind of service and facilities (sun loungers, umbrellas, changing cabins…). Depending on how much you want to pay, you can get a simple lounge or you can have Jacuzzi facilities, gym equipment, a snack, un aperitivo… For the price of 18€ we got two loungers, an umbrella, a snack and a drink.

Some parts of the beach are free, with toilets and lifeguards, where you can put your own beach towel.

So I have to say we did enjoy the beach. It felt nice to relax, have a glass of Mojito, while listening to a DJ jamming. Italians know how to have a good time.  No “smell” of sewage, thank God.

There are many small restaurants along the beach that are open not only at day time, but also in the evening . We chose to play it safe and decide on a restaurant that everybody recommended and we loooved it! “Carlos” restaurant and pizzeria is a place I would definitely go again. There fish is to die for, we ate there for three nights in a row.  That’s how good it is. Open since 1969 they advertise it as “a sea on your plate”.  Make a reservation because the place is booked almost every day.  Staff is more then friendly, they go over to fulfill your every request. Our waitress, from Argentina (Alijandra) always had a smile and never once during our three visits did she not make us feel like old friends. We had almost every meal on the menu (be careful because the portions are huge) and loved each one. Spaghetti vongole, mixed grilled fish, caprese salad, shrimp cocktail, lobster…..I can still taste their amazing fish soup !

Just 30 min drive from Rimini there is the old principality, San Marino, capital of Republic of San Marino. It´s third smallest state in Europe, after Vatican and Monaco and world oldest republic. It sits on the mountain (Monte Titano) so the view of the surrounding towns and Adriatic coast is really breathtaking.

 

Finding a parking spot is not easy.  They do have a couple of parking lots, but definitely not enough, especially if you decide to go there on a weekend. We used P11 (8€ for whole day-not bad at all) because it´s close to the cable car (Funivia) which you can use to get to the top. Price for a round trip is 4,50 €, per person or you can just (definition just in case) walk.

You can get 4 types of access card to see some major sites of San Marino:

  • red card (valid for the visit (idioms dictionary) to only one museum – 4,50€)
  • orange (valid for entry to two museums of your choice – 6,50€)
  • green (reduced price – for only one museums for groups of more then 25, groups of students, children aged between 6-12 and adults over 65 – 3,50€)
  • purple – (pass to visit all State Museums and its valid for 10 days – 10,50€)

Free entry is for children under the age of 6, for people with disabilities and their companions, or you can be lucky like us and come to visit on 7 of July which was IX anniversary of San Marino becoming a part of the Unesco World Heritage List so the entrance was free.

Opening hours are from 8am-8pm summer time and 9am-4:30pm winter time.

You can see most of it in one day. Three Towers are a must. First two you can enter. There is no entrance for the third one. You can only see it from the outside. Lot of Museums to check out, like: State Museum, Museum of the Emigrant, Vampire Museum, Waxworks Museum, Museum of Curiosity, Torture Museum, Museum of National History, Ancient Weapons…

Public Palace is the building where official ceremonies take place and it´s also main institutional and administrative seat of San Marino. Guards of the Rock are the one responsible for guarding the Palace and they have very distinctive red and green uniforms.

Beautiful cobblestone streets and will bring you back to medieval times. Winding roads that go up and down the hill connect all the major sites. My advice is wear flats or comfortable shoes. Some parts are walking paths through the woods like the one between Second and Third Tower. Don’t worry about food and drink because you can find food stands, bars, restaurants on every corner.

Try to get there early in the morning to avoid crowds and to find a parking space. Take your time, admire the view from the top and have a homemade ice cream at “L´Alchimista Gelateria”. Live the Italian Way!

 

 

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