It was up at 5.30am the next day for the drive down to Pompei, and needless to say everyone was hung over and hadn't had much sleep so therefore felt terrible. But we had an awesome treat on the way to Pompei, something that no Contiki tour had ever done. We drove up the famous Mount Vesuvius! It was a narrow windy road all the way up and the bus had to make 3 point turns a few times just to get round certain corners, but it was definitely worth it. Mount Vesuvius is famous because it is the volcano (now dormant) that erupted two and a half thousand years ago which covered Pompei in ash. It was amazing to see long trails of solid lava / magma all the way down the mountain side and through the valleys. The whole area was also very green thanks to the nutrients from the volcano. If my memory serves me right the volcano last erupted in the 80's or 90's. All in all, a great surprise from our tour manager and driver.
We carried on down to Pompei and were told some interesting things about the area. The whole of southern Italy is pretty much run by the Mafia. Literally, they are more powerful than the government and what they say goes. A year ago a Contiki group went to Pompei and had lunch at a restaurant that was owned by a certain Mafia family. The rival family got angry because Contiki was doing business with this family and parked an unmarked Mercedes in front of the Contiki coach and left it there for 6 hours, which forced the tour group to miss their ferry to Greece. Contiki had a chat with the Mafia and they said that Contiki must pay the Mafia a protection fee every time they come into town, but Contiki refused, but came to an agreement with the family that Contiki will always eat at their restaurants, shop at their shops, park the coach in their coach parks, and so on.
Another thing happened once to our driver, he was at the family's service station filling up the coach. When the coach was full the meter read 700 Euro, but when he went to pay he was given a bill for 750 Euro. He reluctantly paid it, but went to the family's restaurant and told them what had happened. He was refunded the 50, and when he was going back to the coach later on he saw the man that had over charged him lying on the street barely alive with a 50 Euro note rolled up in his eye socket. Moral of the story: don't mess around with the Mafia.
We had a guided tour of Pompei - what must have been an amazing city in it's time. There were hundreds of shops, some ampitheatres, and even a very well preserved brothel that has clearly discernible paintings on the walls showing things of a sexual nature.
For those that don't know much about Pompei when it was covered in ash people were literally buried alive in it, and then when they decomposed they left empty spaces which allowed archaeologists to pour in stuff so they could take a mold of the space which revealed amazing things like there was a pregnant woman lying face down, a dog curled up, a baby, and other interesting such things. Unfortunately in the 1800's when Pompei was first discovered, the archaeologists didn't know what they were doing and destroyed most of the empty spaces, leaving only a few when someone realised why there were so many hollow areas when excavating. Very cool place!
Here's a picture of the dog.
After the tour we were back on the coach and left the area without any problems from the Mafia, which apparently is unusual! We drove down to the coast and boarded the ferry which was taking us across the Mediterranean sea to Greece!