Monday, December 11, 2006

The "new" city of Pompei & Castello di Arechi, Salerno 12.11.06

Pompei, not Pompeii 12.09.06

It's raining again. It's rained on and off for the past few days. I am hoping it gets it all out of its system before my sister and nieces arrive on the 21st so I'm not minding it too much. On Saturday we drove to Pompei. The "new" city, not the archeological site (spelled with two ii's - Pompeii), just to see it. We were surprised when our friend Giovanna from Perugia told us she was from Pompei as we didn't realize in addition to the ruins, that there was still a city there! There is also a huge church in the main piazza, dedicated to the Madonna of the Rosary, a Santuario built by the Blessed (or "Beato" in Italiano, meaning he is on his way to sainthood) Bartolo Longo, a wealthy and holy man who died around 1920 and was devoted to the Madonna and to encouraging people to say the rosary. The church is definitely "over the top" but is also quite beautiful and the work represents some of the top craftspeople and artists of the day. The ceiling of the main dome has some wonderful frescoes from the 1940s. The mosaics are terrific as well. There is not a square inch left undecorated, but the colors are harmonious and it just works. We wanted to take the lift up in the bell tower but because of the wind and the rain, it was closed. We'll have to return as we think the views of the ruins and the surrounding area will be worth it.

We were told about this man and his mission on our trip to the Vesuviano Museum, where we had hoped to learn more about the volcano's eruptions including prints and photos but were disappointed to find out that this part of the museum was closed for renovations. There is an entire area dedicated to Beato Longo and the tour guide was clearly a devout follower. The museum includes photos, paintings, a model of the church and furniture from his home and other artifacts relating to his life and work. It was interesting I must admit and helped us understand why this is a pilgrimage site today. On this particular day there were Masses being said, one after the other, all well attended. Or perhaps it was just the weather!

Pastina and Stracciatella

We ducked back into the church when the rain got heavier and then across the street to a restaurant, to have lunch and stay dry! At noon we were the first to arrive but by the time we finished the place was filled to capacity, as usual! A very large party arrived while we were eating and ordered pizza and pasta and the waiter dished out a huge platter of spaghetti, family style. Bob and I each tried a different soup with names from my childhood: pastina in brodo (broth), and one drizzled with beaten egg and parmegiano cheese, called stracciatella - kind of an Italian egg drop soup and then shared a margherita pizza cooked in a wood fired oven, Napolitano style. We stretched it out with a coffee at the end and then finally had to just brave the rain, back to the car.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at home, taking naps, watching the rain and listening to the sounds of thunder.

Castello di Arechi, Salerno

On Sunday the sun was shining when we got up so we drove up a short distance towards Salerno to check out the castle ruins that sit above the city, Castello di Arechi. Bob wanted to explore it and had read that it was recently renovated and open to the public. But when we parked out car and walked the path up to the entrance, it was not. They are still doing some work but since it is off-season, it was closed. We did enjoy the views of the Bay of Salerno and the city far below and then walked further up through a lovely wooded area to the Bastiglia, the prison tower, also closed, but sat and enjoyed the solitude of this high place, surrounded by greenery with the Bay sparkling far below.

We stopped on our way home to check out the fitness fair and watched some aerobics and spinning classes underway beneath the white tents set up for this purpose, picked up a few groceries at the Salumeria (and we told Antonio how good his directions were for our journey along the Cilento Coast the week before, to his delight.) We ran into Martine and Piero, doing the same thing and walked back to our apartment for lunch and an afternoon nap. Maybe we are getting into this Italian lifestyle pretty well!

Meatballs and Movies

I have been craving pasta with meatballs so I spent some time preparing the sauce and that was our dinner last night. We were going to take another drive in the evening but by the time we finished eating the rain had started again and we just decided to stay in and watch a movie. We can view DVDs on our laptop and have amassed a little collection of English language films that we've been re-watching over the past months. Last night was "Frida." We ordered some new ones that my sister will be bringing with her. We tried to rent DVDs in Verona but found that there is a different code on the European films and we can't watch them on our American equipment. We could have spring for a new DVD player, but really didn't want to cart it around with us from place to place or spend the money either (living cheap, remember). Jessica has brought new movies with her each time she's come and with this new batch arriving with my sister, we should be set until we head home in April. We would have to say going to the movies (and understanding all the dialogue!) is one of the things we do miss and is one of the things we look forward to being able to do when we get home.

Bob just got back from running errands and picking up fresh bread so I will stop and fix some lunch. Meatball sandwiches are what I had in mind. So I will say ciao for now.

Ci vediamo,
Rosemary e Robert

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