“Ruins of Pompeii.” That was all I needed to see. The list of tours available to Princess Cruises passengers included lots of fascinating destinations, but there was only one that jumped off the page for me.
It was June 6, 2010, day five of our Mediterranean cruise odyssey, and I was going to the magical, mystical, legendary Pompeii. No matter that the early summer heat would be stifling. No matter that I wasn’t totally comfortable with my new hip: A visit to Pompeii was something I had dreamed about doing since elementary school.
The Pacific Princess arrived in the Bay of Naples and docked at Sorrento, a lovely town on the cliffs overlooking the sea. (I’m beginning to think I could pretty much fill in any coastal Italian town name and say the same thing: Italy is one gorgeous country.)
Anyway, our tour group set out from Sorrento on a winding, congested road heading to Pompeii, an hour away. Part of the drive was along the Amalfi coast, which proved to be as scenic as all the brochures had promised. Here was yet another spot that I vowed to come back and spend more time in the future. (I’ve been to more than 40 countries, and there aren’t many that I don’t want to visit again, but Italy has turned out to be relentlessly attractive. This was the fourth visit, and it definitely won’t be the last. Sigh. I’m afraid I’m a travelholic. … But once again, I digress.)
Most people know the general history of Pompeii: A Roman town, it was buried in the 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius, which killed some 2,000 people. Because of a unique set of circumstances, the civilization there was pretty much frozen at that point in time, and visitors can get a real look at what life was like and how the people lived. I’ve got two books about Pompeii, and I still found myself marveling at all that I saw. You can’t just read about it; you have to see it. Doesn’t matter if the throngs of summer tourists are there; it doesn’t matter if the heat is stifling. Pompeii is one for the ages.