Friday, January 11, 2019

Herculaneum: historic village looks at life five centuries B.C.

When Vesuvius erupted, the explosion covered nearby Pompeii, but not as deeply as Ercolano, thus the preservation.



Buried beneath the slopes of Vesuvius, Ercolano was once a thriving
"vacation town" for wealthy Romans, who loved the countryside.

Ercolano is approached from a busy tourist area, with
plenty of restaurants lining the road to the ruins.
 THE LOST city of Herculaneum (Ercolano in Italian) was founded between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C. It was both a fishing village and a wealthy get-away -- the Palm Springs of its day -- a vacation enclave for well
heeled Romans escaping city life.
Cookie enters the path to Ercolano.
By the time the 79 AD eruption  ended, Herculaneum was buried by 20 metres of volcanic material. Nearby Pompeii was buried by only five metres of volcanic material and thus deteriorated through the years while Ercolano remained virtually intact, "fossilized" for posterity. Most of the buildings in Pompeii collapsed in the fall of pumice stone while this didn't happen in Herculaneum.  So off we were to this lesser known product of the wrath of Vesuvius. Fast-moving pyroclastic flow (rock, hot gas and other volcanic matter) was the devastating result of the eruption, which killed all the residents of both settlements. The gas reached a temperature of over 1,830 degrees F.
Bruce Keller poses above the lost then found village.  

FROM FOUND documents, researchers learned that Ercolano was an ancient Roman fishing town also enjoyed by wealthy Romans, who vacationed or had lavish second homes in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. We were thrilled to read about the village and took a day trip from Napoli, Naples in English. First, we booked the direct express train from Rome to Naples, then switched to the Circumvesuviana train, a colorful ride out of Naples to the east of the city near Mount Vesuvius.
The excitement of discovering a  village more than 2,000 years old
awaits if you visit Herculaneum -- Ercolano in Italian. It's near Naples.
WHAT WE FOUND is rare. This tiny city, buried by the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, has been carefully conserved to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the pyroclastic surge, much of the organic based wood objects remained intact, so these archaeological treasures give a glimpse of life of both the fishermen and the wealthy Romans they fed. Mosaics, frescoes, artwork, and even dried fruit and vegetables were sealed in the mud and uncovered centuries later. Surprisingly, we found few tourists  here, halfway between the more frequented and touristy towns of Pompeii and Naples, home of pizza!
   Although excavation began in the mid-1700s, earnest development of the site began only in the past 75 years. This peek into the past is sure to be rapidly discovered.  If you're in the vicinity, don't miss it. You can tie it in with a Vesuvius visit:

Donkey Tours will take you off the beaten track, to wonders of Gaudi
and Picasso, Roman ruins that not everyone knows about and much more.  
UP NEXT: Heard of Donkey Tours Barcelona? Want up close and personal looks at the wonders of this exciting city, from Picasso's haunts to the best croissant in town, little known Roman ruins and paella to put your taste buds in happy overdrive. We share the delights of this wonderfully engaging tour group which prides itself in knowledgeable, fun guides. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a unique view of life with travel, the arts, nature and family.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Best of Europe: Picking the right tour can make a huge difference

The glories of the Amalfi Coast come alive with Can't Be Missed Tours, known for intimate exposure to the landscape.
The personalized nature of a quality tour includes
getting to know your guide with pointers on the region. 
Rosella and Cookie pose in Naples.


The charm of the seaside towns of the Amalfi
Coast includes time for wandering and dining.
Small vehicles hug the coastline with CBM, where intimate
experience is paramount and guides know the territory.

Our CBM guides took us to specialty shops run by locals,
for the best prices along the route, giving shoppers an edge.

 An amiable CBM tour guide will meet you at the train station, ship or airport, and even pick up or return to your hotel.
Private, small-group tours, tailored to each traveler, are the CBM hallmark. Transfers can also be arranged.

WHEN YOU plan a trip to Europe, you want to make the most of your precious time and money.
Booking the right excursions to fit your mood and interests is paramount to having a memorable time.
CBM makes the journey come alive,
with cheerful, informative guides
who take you off the beaten path.

We discovered an energetic new agency, CBM Tours, which guarantees "up close and personal" attention to each visitor and personalized, specific-interest forays to precisely where you want to go. We spent a delightful day with CBM and can't wait to meet again.  The small, family-run business is managed by Petro, an amiable multi-lingual fellow who works his small groups like a veteran jeweler, pointing out gems and bargains, making the most of each participant's time, tailoring each tour to fit the wishes of each person. Petro is a showman and he knows his territory.
Ravello's pretty streets lead to squares, churches and the famed festival.

WE FOUND CBM during a two-week Mediterranean cruise, and were thrilled to book, after studying the lively brochure. If you're interested in history and antiquity, CBM will take you up close and personal to the wonders of Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento, the Vatican and Florence and Pisa. 
CBM makes the tour pick-up convenient. Our cheerful guide Vincenzo met us at the ship in Naples, and drove us past the lovely port city of Sorrento, a picturesque coastal town in southwestern Italy. We had a stunning view of the Bay of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Perched atop cliffs that separate the town from its busy marinas, Sorrento is famous for its sweeping water views and Piazza Tasso, a cafe-lined square. The historic center is a warren of narrow alleys -- home to the Chiesa di San Francesco, a 14th-century church with a tranquil cloister.
AFTER TWO hours in colorful Positano, we pushed on to a town dear to my heart for its fine music, Ravello.  Its famous festival -- also known as the "Wagner Festival" -- is  an annual summer feast of music and the arts, attended by legions from around the globe, all drawn to the town of Ravello.  Many consider its location on the Amalfi coast one of the most lovely in Italy's Campania region.
An enjoyable boat ride was a highlight of our Amalfi coast CBM experience.
CBM makes free time for lunch stops, landmarks and shopping and the guides know which restaurants to recommend, based on your fancy. We found wonderful pizza and sweets and shopped for scarves and pottery made in the region.
DRIVING UP  the Amalfi Coast was a thrill.  Vincenzo pulled our mini-van off in several spectacular viewing spots where a larger vehicle couldn't go.  We'd been to Pompeii so passed on that with CBM, but others raved about the enthusiastic private tour of this fascinating place. We loved our fun, informative time with CBM and were returned to our ship precisely on time as promised. CBM's love of Italy, and knowledge of both its popular and hidden treasures made our two-week cruise.
CBM COVERS offers a range of imaginative tours and will tailor a trip to your requests -- meeting clients in Civitavecchia for Rome and the Vatican, from Naples up the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii and from Florence to Pisa.

Herculaneum, known as Ercolano in Italian, is a wonderful relic
of Roman life five centuries B.C. It's a fun train ride, too, from Naples.
UP NEXT: While we're in the neighborhood, we have more pointers.  If you're anywhere in the vicinity of Naples, don't miss the opportunity to visit nearby Herculaneum. Ercolano, its Italian name, is in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius and near Pompeii, is equally fascinating, although lesser known.  The town was covered by volcanic flows in 79 AD and is mostly preserved intact.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at travel, nature, history, family and the arts.