Monday, November 23, 2015

Albania revisited ... and other places - part eight

Not the most inviting morning in Civitavecchia, port for Rome.
Over the years, Civitavecchia’s had seriously bad press and, in last year’s blog, I quoted examples. I’ve found another.
Mark Twain describes his 1867 arrival: ’Civitavecchia is the finest nest of dirt, vermin and ignorance we have found yet …There is nothing to see here’. Small wonder, even on a rainy morning, most on Maasdam hasten inland to the Vatican and Trevi Fountain. 

I, however, know better as my previous visit was delightful:

First, a café devoid of anyone but locals. Not only a town with few tourists, but November when rare customers are served a caffè latte with alacrity.

Next, between raindrops and brief blue skies, a meander.

Civitavecchia’s Communist Party offices, modest reminder of when Italy had the largest membership in the West. Now, officially anyway, the party’s virtually non-existent.

I revisit the town’s small medieval area …

… then the waterfront. A 1743 marble fountain with faun’s head …

… and walls of an impressive Renaissance fortress named for Pope Julius II. 

Quick check on sea conditions (him rather than me) and retreat to Dolce & Salato (Sweet & Salty), a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, which I spotted last year on the Piazza Fratti

A lunch to remember in those grim, Toronto, mid-winter days when snow is deep and I’m too cowardly to trudge to sustenance and, famished, I check my fridge and consider a moldy cheese and suspect tomato sandwich (on stale bread). 
Two delightful ladies, Patricia and Bernadetta, make fresh pasta and bustle about a kitchen with pots bubbling and delectable odours wafting out to my anticipatory table. Meanwhile, a bottle of wine (€7). Then, antipasti and insulata and primi and secondi and dessert and caffè. Burp!

Our visit to Naples is cut short by more unsettled weather. However, I do manage a reasonable shot of Vesuvius at dawn, just before the sky clouds over.
I consider the next picture my trip's masterpiece and have titled it Gallinaceos Herculaneum (‘Herculaneum Chickens’ - Latin not guaranteed). These are the hardy descendants of ones that escaped the eruption.

Actually, that’s not true. I made it up. But the chickens are in Herculaneum, well, Ercolano, a Naples suburb.

The excavations are well below the level of surrounding land.

Last year, I visited Pompeii; Herculaneum was wealthier, smaller and is better preserved.

A dolphin mosaic in the baths …

 … and advertisement for different vintages of wine, the blue jug more expensive than the red. 
More than temples, triumphal arches and vast amphitheatres, a sign encouraging passersby to ‘Come to the Sign of the Bowls’ for a good drink or a gambolling dolphin make the dead of Herculaneum very real.