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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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Flying business class Alitalia
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Travel tips

Flying business class Alitalia

Mr. G. always surprises me with something: a gift, a thought, a smile, a feeling (he is amazing and I’m so lucky to have him ), or like today, a business class ticket from Rome to Tokyo.

So now I’m sitting at the Business Class Lounge Alitalia “Le Navi” at Rome international airport and feeling like royalty. Deciding between lasagne, pasta with vegetables, green broccoli mousse with parmesan wafer and spicy paprika, spelled flat bread with bresaola, chickpeas mousse with dry tomatoes, barley with swordfish and asparagus and all sorts of ham, must be very hard in the life of rich and famous.

Since I’m a simple girl I chose desserts! You need to have a room for a dessert it’s a sin not to have a coffee mousse or a pistachio mousse with chocolate crumble!

We spent almost 3 hours at this luxurious lounge enjoying a glass of wine and talking to two Korean girls we just (definition just in case) met.
Passing through fast priority line (cause that’s one of the benefits) I notice the same expression on people’s faces that I use to have, like “look at those snobs.” Yes please, I’ll take it, I will be the snob for a flight that is nearly 12 hours long!
Our seats are 1G and 1L which means we are in the middle, with one seat on each side. You can choose to have your privacy by leaving the divider up or down if you are flying with someone. We had it down so I can crush Mr.G’s hand while we are taking off because I’m still afraid of flying. I decided that my fear is not going to stop me from enjoying in what I love (apple of eye meaning) the most.
A complementary drink (sparkling wine, juice or water) and a toiletry bag are offered as soon as you are settled. Bvlgari for Alitalia has a comfort kit (love, love those socks, sooo warm and comfy and asleep patch), a brush, dental kit, refreshing towel, Bvlgari sample perfume, face emulsion, lip balm and hand cream.

Everything around (find a way around) you is made to ease your flight, make it more comfortable, relaxing. The massage seat is designed for upright, relax and bed positions, or you can adjust it the way you want it. Yes, massage seat, because it can do just spots or give you a massage in waves.

Entertainment system offers movies (between a large selection of Italian and some old movies I was finally able to see “La la land” and “Collateral beauty”), games, music, shopping.
I was impressed with the menu. I’m sure a lot of you don’t like plane food and trust me I’m not picky, I’ll eat everything, try everything, and to me food is always good. Everyone can find something that they would eat or drink from these selections, especially from the wine list since they have been rewarded for the “Best in-flight wine program” in 2013 and “Outstanding wine program” in 2014 from Saveur Culinary Travel Awards.

Stretching your legs on a flight that lasts 11 hours and 45 minutes is like driving in a Mercedes or BMW, not my Clio!

Service was flawless, from the beginning to the end of the flight. They were making sure you are satisfied every second. Every demand was fulfilled with a smile. For me definitely an amazing experience. There is not one thing I would change, well maybe just me being here more often.

 

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Travel tips

Planning a trip to Japan? Take a deep breath….now….scream !!!!

Imagine planning a trip with two small children (parents will know what I´m talking about)  then multiply that stress by ten and you got it! Don´t get me wrong, it´s definitely worth it but it´s more then I have imagined. And I traveled a lot.

Since Mr. G. has to be in Yokosuka for work 10 days, we decided to take some vacation time (killing time synonym) and see as much of Japan as we can. This is going to be three weeks of living a dream, exploring a country that is so different and so magnificent. I´m soooooooo excited,  I´ll probably forget something!

We decided to see Yokosuka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Mt.Fuji and of course Tokyo.

First thing you should do, before even getting to Japan is order a Japan Rail Pass. These allow you to make unlimited use of fast and efficient Japan Rail system. It´s cheaper than buying every single ticket for travelling throughout Japan. You are probably wondering why buying something before time when you can buy them when you get there ? Well, you can´t, that´s the catch. You can only order it online, we used www.japan-experience.com. You can buy the Pass for 7, 14 or 21 days. Note that the Pass is only valid on JR services, you will still have to pay for private train services. Als0 it can not be used for super express Nozomi shinkansen service, but it´s ok for other shinkansen services (bullet trains). It will save you money if you are travelling between towns and taking long rides. If you are staying only in one town then consider buying local train tickets. Our Exchange orders came in only four days after ordering them with DHL and we selected the 7 days pass. We are going to use it between Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo. After you arrive in Japan you have to bring the voucher at a JR Travel Service Center (in most major JR stations and at International airports). They will validate your Pass and you select the date on which you want it to become valid. It can be immediately or on a later date, it depends on your trip ( have your passport with you).

Japan is famous for their onsen (hot spring bath) so try to put that on your to do list if you don´t have tattoos (you are not allowed to go in if you have it). There are some that allow so research.

I´m a sneaker kind of girl, so now I have to find some slip-on shoes because you have to take them off before entering some restaurants, homes, temples….

If you are from Europe note that the wall outlet are the same as USA 110 V so you´ll need a power converter. Also check if you need a visa for Japan. They are issued on arrival for most nationalities for stay up to 90 days, but just (definition just in case) check to be sure. You might even think about getting a prepaid data sim card. You can order it on the same site (idiom site) as JR Pass. We took 30 days card, just so we can stay in touch with each other and our family.

They say Japan is a safe country. I will do a lot of sightseeing by myself so that is a great thing to know. From everything I´ve read and heard they speak English, but I will have a couple of phrases written and hopefully learned. Definitely like : „Please bring a fork „ or „ I´m lost „ ! Google translate (with Word Lens)  in all it´s glory!

I´m sure Japanese chefs will not like me. Croatian don´t slurp, we think it´s rude, but I will adopt. Have to defend the honor. My kids are going to love (apple of eye meaning) that !

The one thing they are not safe from are earthquakes, so I will have a battery, light and a whistle with me (thanks Irena for that advice). Hey, what ? I´m just being cautious, remember mom of two !?

I always want to see more of a traditional things then modern. I´m looking forward to see all their diversity , from Zen gardens, Geishas, temples, gardens, castles, onsens, japanese food to Tokyo nightlife, eccentric fashion, neon lights….

I almost forgot about where to stay. See, I told you I´ll forget something, because I´m SOOOO EXCITED !!! We booked a place in apartment building in Yokosuka, Liberty Cove. Their hotels have really small rooms, like really small, like matchbox, so we decided on a one bedroom place. We still need to book a place to stay in Kyoto and Tokyo. We are kinda like taking a chance with that.

Now I´m going to spend some time with my children. This is the longest that we are going to be apart.

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