The next morning we woke up docked in Naples, Italy. Our newletter described Naples as: “Not only picturesque, but one of the world’s greatest cultural centers filled with extraordinary works of art and architecture in the classical Greek and Roman styles. While here you will want to visit Pompeii, one of the most famous excavation sites in the world.” And in fact, that is exactly what we had opted to do on our excursion which was entitled “Taste of Sorrento and Pompeii.” In case you’re thinking “there seems to be this real food thing going on here,” you are absolutely right. We did pick several excursions that had tasting experiences. Our excursion booklet had this to say about Sorrento: “Sorrento is a popular resort destination due to its charming atmosphere, breathtaking location and local cuisine. Combining a visit to Sorrento with the moving archeological ruins of Pompeii makes this tour an unforgettable experience.” We were looking forward to it.

Specifically, one of the things that drew us to this particular excursion was that once we got to Sorrento we were to visit a local farmhouse nestled in the hills. There a family produced mozzarella cheese, fresh vegetables, olives and lemons, and that sounded pretty promising to us. We were to enjoy some demonstrations and a taste of mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, salami and bread in a peaceful setting of lemon and olive trees. It turned out to be as good as we expected. This was a long excursion, about nine hours. As we later came to find out, it was a good thing we started with a leisurely morning because the end of the day was well, not so much. Now I know that Naples had been described as a center of culture and art, but the view that we saw upon arrival was not one that would encourage me to return, I’m sorry to say. It looked pretty bleak and sad. It had the feeling of a neglected port city. I don’t think the weather helped much either because it was overcast the city had a feeling of real gloominess. It also had a hard edge to it. Maybe that first impression was not an accurate one, but it certainly was striking and memorable.

Our route to Sorrento from Naples took us via the Autostrada and the Campanian coastal route to Sorrento. This was a really lovely drive and we stopped several times for photos looking down at the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline on the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy in the province of Salerno. It extends from Positano in the west to Vietri sul Mare in the east. For a little bit more about the Amalfi Coast, see the website We stopped at several outlooks to take picture of the beautiful coastline. Afterwards, we wound up the hills through the town of Sorrento where our tour guide pointed out our future meeting point after our visit to the farmhouse. We then wound through town up to the farmhouse. It was exactly as it had been described, a peaceful little farmhouse nestled amidst olive and lemon trees.

We toured the production facilities where limoncello was made and that was of course very interesting because well, we had never seen that. The hostess of the household described the different types of lemons and how the best lemons are found there in the hillsides around Sorrento and that’s why there’s so much limoncello made there. She also talked about the different types of olives they grew and she showed us how they pressed olive oil. Of course, all the equipment we saw was how things were done in the olden times. There are much more high tech methods now, but it was pretty neat to see. And, did I mention that they also had wine? That must have slipped my mind.

One of the other neat things about this excursion was we got to see mozzarella being made. One of the things we learned during the demonstration is that mozzarella used to be cured with salt and dried so that it would last. The woman who gave the demonstration also showed how the mozzarella could be braided and stored that way and how it might also be served with a variety of meats and might be produced with other ingredients. That was very interesting and we enjoyed it. Afterwards though, came our favorite part of the visit to the farmhouse and that was the tasting part. We enjoyed a snack of salami, olives, fresh delicious tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, wine and two types of limoncello to sample. One was (I guess) traditional limoncello and the other was cream limoncello and they were both very good. In fact, I’ve been looking for cream limoncello since I returned, but I haven’t found any.

After we left the farmhouse, feeling pretty good quite frankly, we headed back to the town of Sorrento where we had about an hour and a half to catch lunch and/or shop. We did some souvenir shopping and we walked around the city to get a sense of it and snapped a lot of photos of the town which was quite quaint and pleasant. It was a hot day again and by that time we had worked up an appetite, so we found a little restaurant on the main street. I have to tell you I had the most delicious pizza that I’ve ever had and I am a little bit of a pizza snob. It comes from having grown up in Chicago, and being accustomed to and proud of Chicago style pan pizza, but this was very yummy pizza. It was a margherita pizza which is pretty famous in Italy because it reflects the colors of the Italian flag. Our tour guide explained to us that a queen (of course, I don’t remember who) asked for a dish that could become the national dish and the chef developed the margherita pizza. It has the red tomatoes, the green basil and the white mozzarella cheese reflecting the Italian flag. We went into this restaurant and they offered a wide variety of menu items, in fact that was part of our problem because we had so little time and so many choices. There were wonderful pastries, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. The ingredients were so fresh and the taste was delicious! It was fantastic. In fact, I made such a spectacle enjoying it, that Marjorie and Carol finally broke down and took a piece and tasted it. They agreed with me that it was really extraordinary pizza. (o.k. enough about that) Marjorie had a sandwich which she enjoyed immensely (similar to a panini) and Carol selected a pasta dish which was also really great.

Afterward, it was time to head back to the tour bus because from there we were going to travel to the ancient city of Pompeii and needless to say, all along the way I snapped pictures of the scenery. Before not too long we arrived in Pompeii. When I tell you it was hot, it was hot, like super ooper duper hot! There’s no shade anywhere around in the city of Pompei. Our tour guide had determined that a forced march approach was important so that we could see all the many important and very noteworthy aspects of the city of Pompeii before our time ran out. It was dry, dusty and did I say it was hot? And a lot of it was uphill, but that wasn’t the trickiest part. The trickiest part was that the paths were cobblestones with little small pebbles and it was slippery, kind of like in Fayetteville sometimes when chat is thrown down on the sidewalks with ice. It was like walking on little tiny marbles on smooth stones covered in dust.

One of the jokes we had about this excursion was that our tour guide had an agenda in terms of what she wanted us to see and nobody was going to deter her from that. Several times as we were on our forced march folks wiped out, including me. I wiped out on one of the main streets there and our guide just continued to walk. She never came back and asked anyone who fell how they were. One of the older ladies in our group, who had had a recent knee replacement fell, a young man about 14 wiped out, and as I said I wiped out. It was quite a spectacle because my camera flew down the street and the battery flew out and everybody from the tour bus went “Ahhhhhh” and stopped. This guide was still marching and she was saying something like, “And now we will see what used to be the bordello with the pornographic frescos. If you look, you will see the menu items that one could choose when one came to the bordello.” That’s just locked in my mind forever.

The other funny thing about that was early on as we entered Pompeii there was a storage area into which you could look and see where people had tried to escape the ashes when the volcano erupted. They were frozen in the position they huddled in, and we decided that in fact those shapes were not people from ancient days. Those were tourists who wiped out in the streets and were left by their tour guide and who then baked in the sun.

At the beginning of our tour, the tour guide said, “Please stay with me. Pompeii is like a maze and it’s very easy to get lost. There are a number of tour groups here today and you must stick with me because otherwise you may not find your way out.” That’s all we needed to hear. Though it was a forced march we were keeping up (at least until I wiped out and we stopped to help some of the other folks who fell). We pretty much hung in there with her. One of the things about Pompeii that I found the most incredible was the fact that you could literally see how people lived so many thousands of years ago. The ash froze things just as they were and it was really well preserved. As we walked through the town we could see the bakery, the steam rooms, the latrines, the gardens, the houses, how the rooms were laid out in the houses, and a number of frescos. It really was sort of an eery time traveling experience when walking through the city of Pompeii. And, did I say it was hot? It was hot! But as we walked through the city, the combination of the views and the archaeological ruins were just breathtaking.

As we walked along the street, it was like walking through any city with signs displaying all the various businesses that had once been in those places. There was also a lovely garden at the back of a home that we walked through and we stopped to take a look at that as well as the frescos that still existed on the floor there.

After spending about two and a half hours in the city of Pompeii, we ended our tour and came out looking for the nearest bottle of water. It had been very beautiful and quite astounding, but boy, we were glad to get back to civilization. On the way back, we had a good view of Mt. Versuvius from the bus. We drove through the picturesque resort town of Amalfi that lies at the mouth of a deep gorge. Our excursion book described it as “a patchwork of flat and domed roofs and vine covered stairways tumbling down to meet the gentle curve of the beach.” Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see all that because we were herded into a cameo shop, sales from which I’m sure were a commission for the cruise line because if you wanted to dodge the cameo shop, the tour guide came and herded you in and said, “Go see, go see, you must see the cameos being made.” Quite frankly, we weren’t very interested in that and the cameos were not really our cup of tea, but we went in anyway and just stretched a little bit before our ride back to Naples and our ship, The Brilliance of the Seas.

After dinner that evening in the formal dining room, we headed to the show which featured a guy named Gary Lovini. It was described as a spectacular, energetic, entertaining show with a difference and it was o.k. After the show, we went to a jazz jam session in the Hollywood Odyssey. The problem was that the Hollywood Odyssey was super smoky, so we didn’t last very long. It had been a hot and long day, so we really didn’t hang out very much that evening, we just sort of poked our heads into the various entertainment venues and then went to get some rest. The next day would be our last. It was a day at sea and we were looking forward to it.