Wednesday, May 7, 2014

April 25th – History and Pizza in Herculaneum and Sorrento

Someone said to me the other day – aren't you fed up of ruins by now? The answer was, no I'm not - and today's visit to Herculaneum confirmed exactly why. This may be a much less spectacular ancient site than Pompeii, and it may be much smaller than Pompeii, but it's more manageable and on a more human scale than its more famous Vesuvian-destroyed counterpart.

Because, our visit really brought home the way that everyday life was lived by the Ancient Romans, and reminded us how little has changed in the 2,000 years since its destruction. People still went to the shops, they went to fast food joints, they went for a drink, and leisure was a large part of the daily routine – even if the main leisure activities back then were going to the baths or to a brothel, rather than going to the cinema or watching TV today.

The remarkable thing about Herculaneum was that it was largely destroyed by a river of hot mud rather than burning ash raining down on it, so quite a few of the buildings have their roofs still intact, and many of the wooden beams, doors, and furniture were carbonised and so are still visible. The colours of the plastered walls are still almost as vibrant as ever, while some of the mosaics are incredibly fresh - as you walked down the Roman cobbles, you really felt like you were following in the footsteps of the Ancients.

Having satisfied our hunger for history, the only thing left to do was to satisfy our hunger for pizza – and, after years of searching in Sorrento, we finally think that we've found the perfect pizza, at Da Franco restaurant. This is hardly an upscale restaurant, but the long line of locals willing to queue for the experience was a good sign that it wasn't a tourist trap either. You're crammed onto tables with other people, there's not much choice, you're not given a plate, and the knives and forks are plastic – but, the pizzas are simply the best. Thin crusts that don't get soggy, delicious tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella – my mouth is watering just writing this.

Fascinating history and delicious food - yet another wonderful day!